Identity theft is a problem that continues to affect millions of Americans. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, it has claimed over 16.7 million victims, one million child identity theft victims with more than 1.6 billion records exposed since 2006! Statistics like this make it clear that it isn’t a matter of if we’re going to become a victim, but when it will happen to us.
Identity theft comes in many forms such as Medical, Tax, Financial, and even child identity theft. There are so many ways to be victimized it becomes a challenge to protect yourself and your loved ones. Let’s look at four ways that we can make ourselves less vulnerable.
Protect Your Mail
The most obvious tip is to make it hard for people to steal your information in the first place. People are stealing information not only from digital sources, but right from your mailbox!
- One way to do this is to always pick your mail up promptly so that people can’t remove it.
- When you go on vacation, be sure to put a vacation hold on it.
- Shred (or otherwise destroy) all unsolicited offers for credit cards and insurance
- Don’t carry your Social Security in your wallet or purse.
- Don’t put all your identifying information in one place
- Use complex passwords. This is one that most people find frustrating, but it is a necessary evil. According to security researchers, simply adding a space to your password can thwart thieves.
Add a Security Freeze/Fraud Alert
A security freeze lets you lock out everyone from accessing your credit report. Only businesses that you already have established relationships with can access it without your permission. There may be a fee from each of the credit reporting agencies each time you freeze and unfreeze your account. A fraud alert, on the other hand, lasts 90 days and tells creditors that they need to contact you before granting credit in your name.
Hire an Identity Theft Protection Company
These companies cannot actually stop people from stealing your identity, but they can provide you with credit and identity monitoring to alert you as soon as possible. These companies offer other services that may be helpful such as Identity Recovery Services, Identity Theft Insurance, and a few include Medical Identity Theft Services. There are many companies to choose from, so be sure to use one that will cover what you need. The federal government also provides free personal recovery plans and guidance to help victims recover from identity theft.
Identity theft is a problem that doesn’t have an easy solution. It’s also one that isn’t going away in the near future, so the best defense is to educate ourselves and be vigilant to protect your identity, your child’s identity, finances, taxes, and medical records.