Identity theft may not be number one on your list of fears, but it is something that you should be wary of.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge. Your credit card information can be stolen and used to make a counterfeit card. Your social security card can be used to apply for a new car loan to file a fake tax return. The possibilities are endless.
You can help protect your identity by being careful with your personal information. Shred anything that may include personal information before you throw it away. Choose passwords that are long and strong. They should include letters, numbers and symbols. A password that is simple and easy to remember may also be simple to crack. Keep your social security card in a secure location (like a lockbox in your house) and NOT in your wallet. Don’t use wi-fi that is not secure. It seems like free wi-fi is available just about everywhere these days, but it can put your information at risk.
No matter how careful you are, you can never be 100% safe. With companies reporting large-scale data breaches and thieves finding new ways to steal your data, you should take extra precautions. Monitoring your credit report can help protect you. You can get a free copy of it one time a year and should look for accounts that you don’t recognize. Identity theft monitoring services also offer protection from identity theft. These services monitor you credit report and public records and alert you to certain changes. If someone uses your name and social security number to apply for a new credit card or loan, you will be promptly notified. Early detection can make a huge difference in damage control.
Also monitor your bank accounts. Many companies allow you to check your account online as often as you like. Take advantage of this because if you just wait for monthly statements, a thief with your credit or debit card number can spend a lot of money before you even know what is going on.