Identity theft can be a stressful and expensive event for anyone. After all, you don’t know how your personal information got leaked and where’s it been used already. You need to take a few actions today to prevent identity theft.
It’s impossible to fully protect yourself from identity theft (hackers and cyber attackers are always getting smarter), but if you’re still cruising the Internet like it’s 1999, you can be a ripe target for identity theft. Plus, company data breaches are increasingly common so even if you do everything right, the company that also has your data needs to stay one step ahead of the hackers too.
Take These Steps Today to Prevent Identity Theft
The best thing you can do to prevent identity theft is to set up your own barricades. Major corporations invest in high-end security suites, but it’s also the simple things that matter most.
Use Strong Passwords
Most online platforms no longer allow simple passwords like “Password” or “ABCD1234.” You usually need to include a combination of numbers, letters, and at least one special character (*!$%) before the password is accepted.
Some platforms are even going as far to require a phrase instead of a dictionary word, because a single word and a few numbers are still too simple. Instead of having a password like “elephant88” you might need one like “Dumbohasbigears2.”
Don’t Use The Same Password For Every Account
Also, don’t use the same password for every account. It’s super easy to use the same password so you only have to remember a single password. However, hackers can have a skeleton key to your entire online footprint if they know your password and email address.
Make slight variations of the password if making completely unrelated passwords is too tough to remember. Also, keep them handwritten in a safe spot for easy reference. Taking a few seconds to write down the correct password, saves minutes when you need to reset the password and wait for the verification message to arrive in your inbox.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Possibly the newest security feature to prevent identity theft is two-factor authentication. As its name implies, you need to use a second verification step to complete the login process on an unknown device.
This technology has been around for a few years, but more websites are now making enrollment mandatory to continue using their services.
Without two-factor authentication, you only have to enter your username and password to log into your account. Now, you have to submit a time-sensitive verification code sent to you via email, text, or phone call. Most likely, the hacker won’t have access to your phone number, so this is always the most secure option.
Use Anti-Spyware Software
You can also consider using one of the following anti-virus and anti-spyware programs:
- Bitdefender Internet Security
If you own a Windows PC, your computer already comes preinstalled with Windows Defender. This is a free firewall protection program, but you can still get better protection from one of the companies mentioned above.
The reason why you want to keep a security system installed is to prevent hackers from installing keystroke tracking programs and other malware on your computer.
Sign Up with an Identity Theft Protection Service
Another important action is monitoring your online identity. There are several identity theft monitoring services to choose from. One of the best places to start is to see if your employer, bank, or personal insurance company offers a discount. Most of the services cost roughly the same amount of money per month (for a paid option) so saving a few bucks is always a good idea!
The Best Identity Theft Protection Services
Some of the best identity protection services are:
- Identity Guard
- Identity Force
Although you can also pay for their paid plan, Credit Sesame also offers free ID Theft protection. You will receive free credit monitoring alerts and $50,000 of identity theft insurance too. With the free Credit Sesame plan, you also have access to a free credit report and credit score.
You might consider going with a paid monitoring service for these additional benefits:
- Social Security Number Monitoring
- Dark Web Monitoring
- Public Records Monitoring
- Fictitious Identity Monitoring
- Alerts on Crimes Committed in Your Name
- $1,000,000 identity theft protection insurance
Free identity monitoring plans basically monitor your credit report to make sure another loan or credit card is issued in your name. But, identity thieves might also try to file fake tax returns, cash out your investments, and other financial moves you never knew you could perform online.
Avoid Public Wifi Networks
Public wifi networks you use at the coffee shop, restaurants, or library can be fertile soil for identity thieves too. In general, try to avoid logging onto sites that require your sensitive information as it can be intercepted by the thief.
If you want a more secure connection, consider joining a VPN network that adds an extra layer of protection to your internet connection and encrypts your web activity.
You can’t prevent a data breach but you can still follow the steps above to deter identity thieves from stealing your information on your personal computer or mobile device. If you want the peace of mind, you should consider getting an identity theft monitoring service. But, you can also pursue many free option to guard your online identity too.