When a someone steals your identity, it’s not just your credit card that’s compromised. Using your stolen identity information, a thief could open a bank account, line of credit, or even take out a loan in your name. These crimes damage your credit rating and could take months or even years to resolve. The best protection is preventing your identity from being stolen in the first place. Here are three ways to safeguard yourself against identity theft.
Use Strong Passwords
Image via Flickr by marc falardeau
A “strong” password is one that someone cannot guess or “crack” easily. If someone you know could guess it, don’t use it as a password. Hence, you should never use your pet’s name, your date of birth, or the name of your favorite band as a password.
An identity thief will have a much harder time trying to crack your password if it isn’t a something they can find on your Facebook page. To create a strong password, make it at least 12 characters, use upper and lowercase letters, and throw in a number and a symbol. Strong passwords are secure, but might be difficult to remember. Here are some tips on creating a strong password that you won’t forget.
Watch for Phishing Scams
Pay attention to emails demanding your password or financial information — they’re most likely “phishing” scams. To trick you into sending personal information, identity thieves craft an official-looking email and make it seem as though it’s coming from your bank or someone in your contact list.
A phishing email is easy to spot when it has spelling errors or a nonsensical message. Sometimes they’re more convincing, however. Pay attention to the domain name of the sender, the information that the email asks for, and the exact name of the sender. Read some tips on how to spot a phishing scam, and think twice before you click a link or open an attachment in an email.
Monitor Your Credit Card Statements
One of the best ways to check for fraudulent activity is to check your credit card statement often. By catching suspicious purchases quickly, you can limit the potential damage an identity thief can do. In particular, check for items you wouldn’t normally buy or purchases from outside your city — both of these are strong indications that a thief compromised your identity.
Since credit card companies also lose money when a thief steals your credit card information, they’ve created their own safeguards when it comes to fraud. By requiring vendors to comply with Payment Card Industry’s customer data security requirements, credit card companies protect your information so they can protect themselves.
Sensitive personal information doesn’t just involve finances — your personal health information also needs protection from theft. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act requires that sensitive medical information be encrypted to maintain confidentiality.
Identity theft can cost you time and money, but a few simple steps can protect your personal information. Stay vigilant, use strong passwords, and — with industry standards on your side — the only one using your identity will be you.