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A recent report shows that 42 million U.S. citizens were victims of identity theft in 2021. The victims incurred a total loss of $52 billion.
In today’s digital world, hackers and identity thieves are using more sophisticated methods, and data breaches are becoming more common. With just a few clicks, criminals can access your personal information and wreak havoc on your life.
Fortunately, preventing identity theft can help you minimize the risk of becoming the next victim. But how can you protect yourself from identity theft?
Keep reading to learn the seven steps you should take to protect yourself and your family. But first, learn what identity theft means.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. The personal information includes your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and address.
Criminals can use your information to open new accounts, make purchases, and even apply for loans in your name. They can file for tax refunds and even seek medical attention using your insurance data.
Unlike theft by taking, identity thieves can steal your information without you knowing it. They can access your data through phishing emails, data breaches, and dumpster diving.
Identity theft can result in damaged credit and financial losses. Identity theft can even lead to criminal charges being brought against you.
How Can You Prevent Identity Theft?
If you’re serious about protecting yourself from false charges and damaged credit, you should know how to prevent identity theft. Use the following tips to keep your information safe:
1. Freeze Your Credit
A credit freeze prevents lenders from accessing your credit report. Freezing makes it harder for criminals to open new accounts in your name.
You’ll need to contact all three credit bureaus to freeze your credit. Each bureau will give you a PIN or password that you’ll use to unfreeze your credit in the future.
A credit freeze does not impact your credit score. And you can still use your existing accounts even if your credit is frozen. You can temporarily lift the freeze if you want to apply for a new loan or credit card.
2. Monitor Your Credit Report
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. Requesting your reports can help you catch signs of identity theft early.
Look for any new accounts or inquiries that you don’t recognize. You should also check your personal information to ensure it’s accurate.
Contact the credit bureau and file a dispute if you spot any suspicious activity. File a police report if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
You can also use a credit monitoring service to keep track of your credit report and score. These services will notify you of any changes to your credit report.
3. Secure Your Personal Information
One of the best ways to avoid identity theft is to keep your personal information safe and secure.
Store your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, and other essential documents in a safe place. You should shred any documents that contain your personal information before you throw them away.
Be careful about who you share your personal information with. Only give out your Social Security number or date of birth when it’s absolutely necessary.
And when you share your personal information, make sure you’re doing it over a secure connection. Avoid sharing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi or email.
4. Check Your Mailbox Daily
Stolen mail is one of the low-tech ways that criminals can commit identity theft. Malicious individuals can steal your bank statements, tax forms, and utility bills.
You can avoid identity theft by checking your mailbox daily and collecting your mail as soon as it arrives. Arrange for a friend or neighbor to collect your mail while you’re away. Or you can put a hold on your mail delivery with the post office.
You should also be careful about what you put in your mailbox. Avoid sending checks or other sensitive information through the mail. If possible, pay your bills online or over the phone.
5. Be Wary of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are another common way identity thieves can steal your personal information. A criminal will pose as a legitimate organization and try to trick you into sharing your personal information.
They might send you an email or text message that looks like it’s from your bank. You can protect yourself from phishing scams by being cautious about the emails and text messages you open.
Don’t click on any links or attachments unless you’re sure they’re from a trusted source. You should also be wary of giving out your personal information online.
6. Use Strong and Different Passwords
You can protect yourself from identity theft by using strong and unique passwords for your online accounts. Avoid using easily guessed words like your name or birth date.
You should also avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If a criminal gains access to one of your accounts, they’ll be able to access all of them.
Instead, use a different password for each of your online accounts. You can use a password manager to help you keep track of all your passwords. You can also enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts.
7. Wipe Your Electronics Before You Sell Them
If you’re planning to sell or donate your computer or smartphone, wipe your devices. Wiping will delete all the personal information on your devices, including your photos, emails, and documents.
You should also delete any accounts that are linked to your device. This includes social media accounts, email accounts, and online shopping accounts.
And don’t forget to remove your SIM card from your phone. This precaution will prevent someone from using your phone number to commit identity theft.
Preventing Identity Theft Made Easy
Preventing identity theft is essential to keeping your personal information safe. You can protect yourself by following the identity theft advice in our article.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, you’ll need to hire an identity theft attorney to help you regain control of your private data. In Georgia, your priority should be a lawyer from Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C. Our experienced attorney will work on your case to attain the most favorable outcome.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help and get a free case evaluation.
Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C.
210 E 31st St
Savannah, GA 31401