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 Avoiding Identity Theft

Millions of Americans fall prey to identity thieves each year. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime problem. That’s why you must always be on guard.

Your Identity is like a puzzle. Individually the pieces do not mean much, but if you put them all together, they create a very clear image. If your information is too freely accessible online, cybercriminals can gather the pieces to create a profile of you. Protecting your personal information is crucial to avoiding identity theft. By following these simple tips, you can safeguard your information and minimize identity theft risk.

1. Deter

Don’t make it easy for a criminal to steal personal information. Try the following tips:

When in doubt, shred it. Documents that contain sensitive information need to be properly disposed of. Shredding them is the best way to prevent criminals from using a technique known as dumpster diving. Dumpster divers dig through your trash hoping to find bank statements, old credit cards, voided checks, etc. Don’t just dump—destroy.

Safeguard how you release personal information. Assume anything you send on the web could be read by anyone. Be aware of those around you when using the phone, and consider secure mailing options to reduce the threat of theft.

Secure personal information. Don’t leave personal information lying around.

Use strong passwords. We can’t emphasize this enough. Strong passwords are your best defense mechanism. And not just for your bank or credit card accounts; you need strong, unique passwords for EVERY account. Even your junk email account. Your front-door security is only as strong as your weakest password. 

Share with care. Don’t respond to requests for personal information, such as your full name, birthdate, address, or anything that might be useful for criminals. Regardless if the request comes via mail, phone, or online, remain skeptical and keep your information private. 

2. Detect 

Know what to look for; be alert for the following red flag:

Missing bills. Missing your monthly bill or account statement isn’t just an inconvenience—it might mean a thief has rerouted your mail to delay you being alerted to any fraudulent activity on your account statement. Don’t assume the postal service or vendor made a mistake. Research!

3. Defend

The best defense is a superior offense. Protect yourself by taking the following actions:

Close all fraudulent accounts. Cut the criminals off from any further funds, which can also limit your liability, as well as stop them from stealing any of your hard-earned money.

Trust, but verify. Whether applying for a credit card, a loan, or any service that requires personally identifiable information, verify that the site you’re logged into is legitimate. Do your homework! Check the site’s reputation and consider installing a web-reputation plug-in in your browser. Look for the ‘https’ symbol in the address bar (it indicates that you have a secure connection). If you’re unsure, close the window immediately. 

Contact and work with authorities. Alert the appropriate agencies about any potential or confirmed security incidents and be sure to cooperate with them. Doing this will prevent further damage and allow authorities to do their jobs efficiently.

This article is shared by our partners at MediaPRO, KnowBe4 Inc. & the Security Awareness Company, KnowBe4, Inc.