Tips to prevent identity theft
More than 13 million U.S. consumers fall victim to identity theft each year, according to Javelin Strategy and Research, with more than $15 billion stolen. Fortunately for consumers, many of these crimes are preventable. “Falling victim to identity theft can be financially devastating for many consumers, a consequence that only further emphasizes the importance of safeguarding your personal information,” says Guy Abramo, president of Experian Consumer Services. Here are a few of his tips:
• Protect your home: Your home is your castle and identity thieves know this is where your most valuable possessions are likely stored. Diminish your vulnerability by using a safe to store sensitive information; use a shredder to reduce your paper trail, and pay and immediately shred utility bills, credit card statements.
• Be cautious at work: “Familiar fraud” is common and occurs when a victim’s identity is stolen by someone he or she knows. At work, store personal items like wallets and smartphones in a locked cabinet. Don’t copy or scan sensitive documents, as memory functions can save your data. At night, turn your computer off. Change passwords often.
• Get smart with your smartphone: Smartphones can be a data goldmine for identity thieves. Use locking features on all your devices, including your laptop. Don’t use automatic login features and always log off when you are finished. Always keep your computer’s anti-virus software up-to-date and be cautious when using public wi-fi. Finally, when upgrading your mobile device be sure to scrub all the data from your old one. (StatePoint)
• Monitor your credit: Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring product which offers additional peace of mind through real-time notifications of any changes. Changes to your report are important to review, as they may be signs of fraud.
The newest feature, which is part of the Experian CreditLock program, can be especially helpful in taking greater control over your credit information. This product feature allows you to easily lock and unlock your credit report in real-time without formally freezing your credit report, which can be a cumbersome process.
By locking your report, creditors no longer have access to it (except for soft inquiries from creditors with whom you already have a financial relationship), which means criminals can’t apply for credit in your name. This should help deter identity thieves, as well as block unwanted inquiries that result in extensions of credit, which can impact your credit scores. In addition, if a creditor or lender tries to access your report, you’ll receive a real-time alert via email and app notification so you can take action immediately.
By safeguarding your information and monitoring your credit, you can better ward off the threat of identity theft.