Guard your information online.
These days, many of us do most of our shopping and banking on the web. With all those account numbers and passwords floating around, it’s easy for someone to nab your information and go on a spree.
The Federal Trade Commission USA estimates that 9 million Americans suffer identity theft annually, the worldwide is more than this.
Five Ways to Help Protect Your Identity | Federal Trade Commission
- Clear your logins and passwords. This is especially important if you’ve been working on a public computer. Change logins and passwords monthly.
- Be alert for phishing, a trick in which spam or pop-ups mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Always verify that you’re on a familiar Web site with security controls before entering personal data.
Monitor your bank and credit card statements. Check your accounts regularly so you know when something’s awry. Purchases you didn’t make should be obvious—like a gas fill-up halfway across the country.
Verify your mailing address with the post office and financial institutions. Identity bandits may fill out change of address forms so that delinquent credit notices remain off your paper billing radar.
Monitor your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request one every four months, changing bureaus each time. You can order the report directly through each agency, or at annualcreditreport.com. Use this URL—there are hordes of sites that will try to charge you for your report and other needless services. Scan it for abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open. (And don’t fall prey to faux free credit report advertisements.)
Shred sensitive documents. Buy a shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.
Does it make sense to pay for ID protection if you’ve taken all these precautions? It depends on your spending habits and overall level of caution. You might want to invest in an identity protection service if:
- You do lots of online banking or shopping.
- You don’t have time to monitor your information on your own.
- The thought of investing time and money into recovering from an identity sickens you.
Picking the Right Service Before you spring for identity protection, consider the no-cost measures you can take to protect yourself. Remember, despite the hype, the odds of having your identity swiped are actually quite low. And no identity protection is bulletproof, so consider carefully before you buy.