Are You Doing Enough to Avoid Identity Theft?
There are over 15 million identity theft victims in the United States annually, and that number has progressively increased over the last few years. A new study from McAfee shows 61% of Americans are “more concerned about cybersecurity than they were five years ago,” but are they taking the steps necessary to fix the problem?
Most survey respondents made some attempt to protect themselves from identity theft: 67% check their credit card and bank accounts frequently for unauthorized transactions, 43% check their social media accounts for posts they did not make, and 37% use credit monitoring services. Those actions are mostly reactive, not proactive.
Here are some tips to prevent identity theft from happening altogether:
- Limit the number of people who have access to your financial accounts.
- Use unique passwords for mobile banking, online money management tools, emails and social media accounts. If you are given a default password when you sign up for an account, change it right away.
- Teach your children how to safely use the Internet, and check their devices frequently to look for inappropriate activity (talking to a stranger online, visiting unapproved websites, etc.).
- Turn on fraud protection services for your credit card or debit card, if necessary. Most card issuers have fraud prevention solutions in place automatically, but some offer additional protection as an opt-in service.
- Research products and merchants before making a purchase, and only work with businesses you know you can trust.
- Do not click on email links from addresses you do not recognize. If you need to check your account, go directly to the website rather than following a link in any email. The email could be from a phishing site trying to steal your login data.
- Change your passwords every few months, especially after a threat to your account (data breach, lost card, etc.).
You may also enroll in identity theft protection to further protect your personal data. This service will not prevent identity theft per se, but it will alert you as soon as there is suspicious activity on your financial accounts or credit history. By taking action right away, you can avoid long-term repercussions of identity theft.