Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in history but it is relatively easy to prevent identity theft in most cases. Millions of consumers fall victim to it every year and regrettably, the effects of identity theft are significant. Many victims of identity theft are so traumatized they often report symptoms of mental and emotional distress similar to victims of violent crime.
The good news is that it is easy to prevent identity theft from happening to you. Here are a few tips to stop identity theft before it ever occurs:
- Use only secure Internet connections, websites, and browsers
- Never open an email originating from an unknown source
- Never click a link or open an attachment send to you by email
- Use different passwords for different websites and make sure the passwords are too long and complicated to guess or decipher
- Use security questions and answers for online websites to which you enroll
- For online purchases use a credit card rather than a debit card
- Always use software such as virus protection, firewalls, malware protection, and spam filters; even on smartphones and tablet computers
- When possible use cash to pay for purchases
- Never give out personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the call and are 100% certain you are giving it to a trusted company
- Never carry you social security card in your wallet
- Don’t disclose your social security number to anyone unless absolutely required
- Carefully review all your financial records and billing statements every month to watch for unauthorized charges
- Obtain your free Annual Credit Report once a year to check for unauthorized accounts opened in your name
Taking all of the above steps will prevent identity theft most of the time though it won’t prevent it all. Even so, use caution in disclosing your personal information and you will be far less likely to become a victim than someone who is less guarded. The simple fact is that you are your own best defense to prevent identity theft. If your identity does get stolen there are several steps you can take to restore your identity though it is better to avoid identity theft in the first place.