Chances are that a friend or family member has been a victim of identity theft, or perhaps you’ve encountered it yourself. This crime is becoming more common for a variety of reasons, but one is the overwhelming amount of information we share online. Practice these simple steps to help keep your info from those actively trying to get it.
Beware of Public Wi-Fi — Wi-Fi is tempting when you have a little downtime at an airport or coffee shop, but there’s always a risk of your information being intercepted. Make sure the network is secure before you hop on, and avoid shopping or using apps that require your personal information (like the one for your bank) while you’re online.
Secure Your Devices — Change your settings so your devices don’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth devices and transmit data without you knowing it. When it comes to apps, find out what data they want to access on your phone before you download them. And do what many people fail to — set up a password on your device.
Don’t Overshare — Divulging details about your life on social media comes with risks. Consider how easy it may be for a hacker to mine your profile for information that’s often used as security and password reminder prompts for online accounts. Rethink sharing your maiden name, birth date, graduation date and other personal details, and be sure to lock down your privacy settings as well. (Here’s how you can tackle that on Facebook.)
Watch Credit Reports — Get a copy of your credit report from the three reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. (Each agency is legally required to give you a free report every 12 months.) You can order all three reports at once, but spacing out your requests may help you better spot suspicious activity over time.
Of course, you can do everything right and still find that your personal information has been compromised. Know the signs of identity theft so you can quickly take steps to minimize any damage.