This post is brought to you by TransUnion however all opinions and advice are my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
Do you shop online? I’m sure you do. How many times have you swiped your debit or credit card at the gas pump, grocery store or ATM? Have you ever left your wallet some place only to come back later to find it “safe and sound?” Do you carry your social security card in your wallet or purse? If so, you have put yourself at risk for identity theft. Yes, everyday common tasks such as buying gas or groceries put your personal information at risk.
Thirty years ago, the possibility that someone could steal the very information that makes you who you are was not something that most people worried about. After all, it wasn’t quite as easy to steal someone’s info back then. There were no huge databases of info, you weren’t giving numbers tied to your bank account to every single company, and our information was generally kept more personal than it is today. These days though, we are giving our information to literally every company that we do business with in one way or another. Our personal information is out there in every email we send, the phones we carry in our hands, the purses or wallets we carry and more and it is often more than just your name and birthday. We carry with us everything from our bank account access numbers (aka your debit card) to our fingerprints (your iPhone) daily. Identity thieves no longer need physical contact with your cards, phone or wallet. Technology has brought us readers that can do it from a short distance and there will always be the amount of information that we put out there about ourselves on the internet.
In other words, the identity thief that has your info got it from source #1. You.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. It doesn’t have to be a situation where you are constantly putting yourself and your info out into the world with no protection. By taking the appropriate steps, you can protect yourself and your identifying information from anyone who may want to steal it.
Know what you’re protecting –
It’s hard to protect your identity of you don’t know what information identity thieves are after. Do they want your name? Your birthday? Your bank account or social security number? Confusion often leads to problems no matter what the situation so make sure that you have a real understanding of what that thief will target when he goes after you.
The simple answer is this; they’re after anything and everything they can get. They’re after your social security number, your bank accounts, your credit, and anything else they can take. They will open credit cards in your name, charge high dollar amounts and do anything they can to run your credit into the ground. They will take mortgages and car loans in your name if possible. They will drain your bank accounts leaving you without a single dime to your name.
Does that sound scary? Yes.
I’m not trying to scare you. I’m being realistic.
An identity thief doesn’t care about you or what they are doing to your situation. They can (and will) ruin you financially if you don’t take the steps to protect yourself.
Be password and pin number savvy –
Did you know that the most common internet password in the US is “password?” How long would it take you to guess that? Likely not long and it won’t take the identity thief long either. Your password – whether it is to your Amazon account or your bank account – is a window to your information. Make sure that you are using one that would be hard to crack.
A good password has both numbers and symbols, capital and lowercase letters and has zero connection to you or your family. You should not be using family member’s names, pet names, family birthdays or anything of the sort. They’re too close to you and as such, too easy to guess.
The same goes for your debit or credit card pin numbers. Always make sure they’re hard to guess and never use something such as “1234” or “2468.”
Monitor your credit as much as you monitor your kids –
How often do you check in on your credit? Once a month? Once a year? Less than that? Your credit isn’t something that can be looked at once and left along. A few months ago, I told you that I don’t personally think it’s a good idea to be totally debt and credit free and that you absolutely will need a good credit score in life. You will need a good credit score to find a place to live, get a job and more. If you’re not monitoring your credit, you are putting that much-needed good credit score in danger.
Do you think that this isn’t important? I did too until I ran a loan application a few years back. Imagine my surprise when I found that I was a 54-year-old woman living in Northern Ohio. At the time, my credit needed severe repair so I hadn’t kept up on monitoring it. I was extremely lucky that when she tried to use my credit, she was not able to, but it taught me that I needed to keep a much better eye on things.
Now I use a product such as TrueIdentity by TransUnion. TrueIdentity offers real-time protection against identity theft with real-time reports and alerts. If something does alert me, I can lock down my TransUnion credit report with one swipe or click. While my report is locked, it can’t be pulled when applying for a new credit line. This means thieves can’t access it. When I need to apply for something myself, it is just as easy to unlock it.
I am also covered by ID theft insurance. If something does happen, I am covered and have a team of knowledgeable people guiding me until the situation is resolved. The entire service makes monitoring your credit incredibly easy and best of all? It’s 100% free to sign up for a TrueIdentity account!
Keep tabs on where your information is –
Do you store your debit card information in accounts that you pay often? Did you open a new line of credit? Did you close one? By knowing exactly where your information is and who you’re doing business with, you will be able to target more easily if something goes wrong. Did a new account pop up that you didn’t open?
Having a record of where your information is at will allow you to stay one step ahead if something does ping that wasn’t caused by you. You’ll be able to red flag your credit report and shut down any fraudulent accounts quicker if you notice earlier.
Make no mistake that at some point in your adult life, you will be targeted by people who want your info. The steps that you take to protect yourself will be the difference in whether they succeed in stealing it or whether you stop them in their tracks.