According to the Center for Victim Research, seven to 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences identity fraud each year. What’s more, a good 20 percent of those people will experience it more than once.
What’s particularly troubling here is institutions long thought to be icons of security have suffered data breaches in which millions of people’s personally identifiable information has been compromised.
With all of that in mind, here are some key things to do to protect your credit.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Score and Your Credit Report
This will help you spot instances of your credit being used without your permission. Subscribe to a credit score service so you can be notified right away if your score changes. Most banks offer this as a service to their customers. Yes, there might be a cost involved, however it will be far less than what you’ll have to deal with if your credit is stolen.
Meanwhile, you can get free copies of your three credit reports (one each from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com. The federal government requires this service be provided to consumers. To review your report quarterly, ask for them one at a time every three months. While there are slight differences between them, there’s enough overlap to help you spot unusual activity.
Do Not Use Public WiFi for Sensitive Transactions
The convenience of smartphones is unrivaled by anything we’ve ever seen. However, that expediency can introduce dangers as well. Hackers can “look over your shoulder” if you do business using public WiFi.
Never buy anything online using a public connection; refrain also from banking and paying bills using public WiFi. And, yes this includes hotels and your workplace as well.
Transactions such as these should always be conducted at home. While we’re on the subject, make sure your router is secured with a robust and unique password comprised of numbers as well as upper and lowercase letters. Do not use it for anything else. That password should also include at least one special character and a minimum of eight digits.
Be Wary of Social Media
You know how Facebook wishes you a happy birthday every year — and tells everyone else it’s your birthday too? That’s a potential security breach. With your date of birth in hand, all thieves need is your Social Security number and your mother’s maiden name to leave you in horrendous debt.
And, as many Freedom Debt Relief reviews have attested, debt can be ruinous to your life in many different ways.
So, that fun trip you’re telling everyone about, that new dog you just got, your mother’s 90th birthday party — all of those clues can come together to give usurpers an opening to rip you off.
Guard Your Personal Information Carefully
Opt out of automatic offers for credit. Shred any that come in the mail to make using them difficult. Go paperless with your banking statements, credit card bills and other financial statements so they can’t be found and pieced back together — once you’ve discarded them.
File your tax returns as early as possible to prevent anyone from slipping a fake one in ahead of you. Look over your financial statements carefully to ensure every transaction listed is one you’ve authorized.
These key things to do to protect your credit will make it more difficult for people to perpetrate fraud against you. However, it will remain a possibility despite your best efforts. It’s critical to remain vigilant at all times. Contact the relevant financial institutions and implement the steps listed at IdentityTheft.gov at even the slightest whiff of credit or identity theft.