Sunday, June 30, 2013

4 Must-Know Tips for Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It can cause serious havoc to your finances, credit history, and reputation. That’s why you should take preventative measures to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Take a look at these four must-know tips for protecting your identity.

Closely Monitor Your Credit Accounts

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, 11.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012. Because of this, you should closely monitor your credit accounts to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Going paperless and setting up automatic payments with your credit accounts is fine, but you should still monitor them for unusual behavior. There are several types of identity theft — tax related identity theft, child identity theft, medical identity theft, and financial identity theft. So, monitor all of your accounts, not just the ones that give you credit.

Use Secure Passwords and Virus/Firewall Protection Software

The Internet is a common place for people to try and steal your identity. They prey on people who are too trusting and not careful with their personal information. Avoid becoming a victim by never buying anything from a website that doesn't have a BBB seal on the bottom or a trusted site symbol. Also, only use secure passwords when creating merchant accounts online. Additionally, protect your computer with a good virus protection software that has firewall and spy-ware built in.

Shred Everything that Has Your Personal Information on It

If you don’t own a shredder, it’s something you should invest in. You should shred everything that has your personal information on it so that it doesn't get in the wrong hands. This includes preapproved credit card offers, bills, and anything with your name on it. Tearing these things in half isn't enough; you should get a shredder with a cross cut to make everything unrecognizable. Old credit cards should also be shredded to protect you from identity theft.

Get a Credit Report Once a Year

Another thing you should do to protect yourself from identity theft is to check your credit report once a year. You are allowed to do this without penalty to your credit, so there's no reason not to do it. When you get your report, look for identity theft threats and take care of them before things get out of control. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, so checking your credit is important.

Even if you take all of these precautions, there’s still the risk of identity theft. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, report it to the Consumer Response Center at the Federal Trade Commission. Also, notify all of your credit card companies and accounts to put a hold on them. Additionally, you may need to contact the Social Security Administration and each of the credit bureaus. The sooner you act, the better. Of course, the best thing you can do is take preventative measures in the first place.


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