What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the malicious use of someone else's identity to gain a personal financial advantage. Armed with the person's identifying information, an identity theft could do a number of things such as applying for a loan or commit any unlawful act using the other person's identity.
Impact of becoming a victim of identity theft
When a person's identity has been stolen, terrible financial implications will arise and it can be as devastating and unsettling as ever. We can't initially spot when fraud has occurred because of the culprit, in most cases, is one step ahead of the victim. The identity thief can ruin their victim's credit which will affect the victim from living their life considering that it would take years to regain financial health and restore a good credit history.
Protect yourself against identity theft
Below are the following tips that can help you lower your risk of becoming a victim.
1. Change your password frequently, usually between 30 and 180 days. Changing your password can increase the security of all your online accounts. Moreover, do not use the same password on all your accounts, create a strong password that cannot be easily guess and do not use your personal information to create one.
2. Don't take the bait fraudsters frequently used – phishing scam using email. There are so many fraudsters who will pretend that they are from your bank and will ask you to provide your personal and financial information for specific reasons. If such incident happens, ignore and delete the email. Don't comply with this kind of email, your bank won't request for this kind of information that might compromise your security. If a certain email bothers you, call your bank instead.
3. Frequently check your bank and credit card statements each month. Look for any payments you haven't made and check that every debit transactions have the correct amount. Make sure that every detail is correct and match up with your records so that you can immediately identify and address any suspicious activity.
4. Get a look at your credit report per year. Watch out for any fraudulent charges on your report and if you ever see an old or incorrect data, have it fix right away.
5. Ask for an initial Fraud Alert on your credit report if you believe that someone has misused your personal and financial information. If you think that you may be a victim of fraud or identity theft, placing a Fraud Alert will make it harder for the culprit to open more accounts using your name. The process for requesting Fraud Alert is easy and you can choose to remove it anytime you want.
6. You Social Security card can get lost or stolen, it is advisable not to carry your card outside and leave it in your house secured. Moreover, be wary of people who ask for your Social Security number as it may jeopardize your identity to thieves.
7. You should completely delete all your digital data if you ever plan on disposing your personal computer, hard drive or any storage device that contains sensitive information about your identity. Identity thieves can retrieve deleted files from a formatted hard drive, thus, make use of a software product that can completely destroy data on hard drives.
8. Shred your documents with personal and financial information before putting them in the trash bin. This will prevent fraudsters from using the information they can obtain from those papers for their own personal benefit.