If you have a computer (a laptop or a desktop doesn’t really make much of a difference in this case) and are connected to the internet, then know that there are identity pirates out there in the shadows waiting for you to make your next move and fall into their traps.
To put it another way, identity pirates/thieves/robbers/muggers/bandits use a wide variety of ways to steal your personal information.
If you want to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft then act in accordance with these general guidelines which shouldn’t be too hard to follow.
Anyone with a little bit of experience, willpower and discipline can incorporate these guidelines into their daily internet activities to stay secure.
Do Whatever It Takes To Guard Your Online Privacy And Keep Away Identity Thieves
Why has the internet become a hunting ground for modern identity thieves? Well, the simple answer is that the internet gives them unfettered access to more than a billion people who use the internet on a daily basis.
Common sense suggests that the vast majority of the people surfing the internet won’t have any idea about there being identity thieves waiting for them to make a mistake.
Of course, with the help of this guide, you won’t be among those who are unprepared and ignorant of the activities of identity thieves.
Perhaps we should mention right now that there is little you can do to prevent a data breach at most “secure” public places such a banks or retail outlets. Any attack on these places is likely to affect hundreds of customers if not thousands.
However, you on the other hand, are just one individual and there are a lot of things you can do right now to build a solid foundation for you online security which will keep those nasty identity thieves at bay.
First off, whenever you come across an opportunity where you have to input some personal information into an online form, always stop for a moment and check if that web page is encrypted with HTTPS. You should also check if the page has an authorized certificate.
You can check both of these by first analyzing the URL of the site you want to input your personal information on.
Check if the URL is prepended by “https” rather than “HTTP”. This information is almost always shown at the top part of your browser in the address bar.
But don’t just stop there, invest in some other online protection tools as well. You should always use an antivirus software if you’re on Windows.
If you’re using Linux or some other platform then that’s another thing. Linux systems are generally much secured and have a small user-base so hackers aren’t really interested in targeting a small portion of internet users who surf the internet using Linux operating systems.
They are more likely to attack users who use Windows because it is the most widely used operating system in the world.
In short, always use an antivirus program. It’s better if you use a dedicated antivirus program rather than the default antivirus program that comes with the operating system.
Also, invest in a good VPN service. That can add an extra layer of protection to your data and personal information while you surf the internet.
If you combine both of the aforementioned software then you can prevent viruses and hackers from tracking and gathering data about your private online activities.
Identity thieves hate protection software like an antivirus program or a VPN service.
Stay Away From Phishing Frauds And Identity Thieves
In other words, don’t pay any attention to unsolicited requests from anyone that ask you for your personal information.
It doesn’t matter if you receive these requests via mail, email or any other medium. Always be on guard while you are online going about your business.
Phishing scams basically try to lure potential victims, online users, into various promotional offers.
Sometimes they make use of threats, such as your assets being at risk or your computer being infected with tons of viruses, to compel you into exposing your personal information.
To protect yourself against that, always remember that legitimate companies that have built up a reputation over decades of hard work and great customer service, will never ask you to give out your private and sensitive information such as your social security number or credit card number either online or over the phone (or even by mail).
Remember, identity thieves will make use of any and every method to steal your information to compromise your identity.
Protect Your Social Security Number From Identity Thieves As If Your Life Depended On It.
Because it does depend on it. Don’t’ just carelessly carry your social security card or any other critical documents (which might have your social security number) with you everywhere you go.
If it wasn’t clear enough already, then also make sure that the same policy holds true for your other important personal information items such as your National Insurance number.
Of course, we’re assuming that you live in the UK because only then you’ll have a National Insurance number.
If you live in Canada and are a Canadian citizen, then you’ll have a social insurance number rather than a National Insurance number which is for UK citizens only.
Moreover, keep your critical documents someplace safe and locked. Do try to keep these vital documents hidden but always keep them in a safe place that you can later remember.
Furthermore, avoid giving out any sort of number unless you’re sure that the other person/company/organization is a legitimate one.
Even then, make sure that it is absolutely necessary to give out your personal details, otherwise always opt for the anonymous option.
Just for clarity’s sake, only give out your personal details to entities that you know one hundred percent that they are trustworthy and reputable.
In short, guard your most critical private information documents such as your social security number, national insurance number and/or social insurance number.
Always Be On The Lookout For Unapproved Transactions That May Be Perpetrated By Identity Thieves
You should regularly compare your official account statements with your receipts (you did keep all your receipts right?) to make certain that everything checks out.
Also, be extra careful if you have signed up for online banking services. You must check your account activity on a regular basis in order to take action against unapproved or shady purchases (unauthorized withdrawals as well) along with credit transfers.
Don’t forget to pay particular attention to billing cycles. If you notice that your credit card bill is arriving unusually late then take it as a sign that someone might have changed the address on your credit card without your approval and forwarded you the credit card bill after fiddling with it.
Make sure you get in touch with your bank officials to inquire about why your credit card bill was delivered to you unusually late.
Identity thieves love it when you don’t put in the hard yards. To protect yourself against identity thieves you should always keep updated on your billing cycles.
Any Paperwork or Document or Sheet Which Has Your Private (Usually Identifying) Information On It Should Go The Shredder Before It Gets To Identity Thieves
The biggest mistake you can make while protecting your identity online and offline is when you throw away your bills, old bank statements, important paperwork and mail into the garbage can without first passing it through the shredder.
If you don’t have a shredder then at least make sure that you destroy it with another method so that your private information remains private.
Identity thieves love to search trash cans where there is a possibility of finding documents with private information on them.
And since we’re talking about being prepared and prompt in your actions, always take out the mail from the mailbox as soon as possible.
You don’t want to let it sit there for days only to be exposed to identity thieves in your neighborhood.
If there comes a time when you can’t collect your mail from the mailbox in a swift manner then ask your trusted neighbor to keep the mail for you.
Don’t let identity thieves rifle through your mail while you’re out enjoying your vacation.
Always Create Difficult And Strong Passwords To Make The Job Harder For Identity Thieves
Some people opt for creating easy-to-remember or/and easy-to-type passwords which is, obviously, a big mistake.
If you’re still using passwords such as “12345678” or “America” or even “passwords” then you need to time-travel your way into the 21st century because in the 21st century these type of password just don’t cut it.
As a general guideline, always set longer passwords. They are almost always better than shorter passwords.
Don’t forget to include numbers and special symbols/characters to thwart computer programs from hacking your account through techniques such as brute force.
What’s brute force?
Well, the brute force method is where a computer tries to guess your password by trying out every possible combination (by that we do mean every possible combination) of strings until it comes to the correct combination i.e your password. More like, your hacked password.
If you’ve been following the new lately then you would probably know that some 500 million Yahoo accounts got hacked. The main reason?
People used the same password for multiple websites. Don’t do that.
Use a password manager app like LastPass, to store all the different passwords for all your accounts on different websites if you find it difficult (and you should) to remember or jot down passwords for each website manually.
Identity thieves should not be able to guess your password.
Identity Thieves’ Techniques: Skimmers And Shoulder Surfers
So, for all practical purposes, skimmers and shoulder surfing are just two methods that bad people employ to rob good people like you. We’ll describe each in the following paragraphs.
See, whenever you make use of an ATM or even a keypad at some cash register, you will come across people who will try to take a peek at your PIN code.
To avoid that, always cover the keypad with your free hand (one of your hands should be typing the PIN code right?).
Skimmers are basically devices that have the capability to scan your credit card’s magnetic strip. Modern thieves install these on ATMs and the worst part is that they are extremely compatible with ATM machines aesthetically speaking.
In other words, if there is a skimmer installed on an ATM machine and you don’t even know what a skimmer is, then there is a reasonable chance that you might become a victim by exposing your credit card to a skimmer.
Skimmers look like part of the original machine and hence are difficult to detect. But you can if you are prepared beforehand.
Also, sometimes the guy at the local store (or the waiter working at your favorite restaurant) might swipe your credit card a second time after you’re billed for your bit when you’re busy talking to friends/family.
The first solution is to be wary of these risks. The second solution is to ask your bank to upgrade your debit card or credit card or whichever card you use to pay for things, to modern cards that have chips installed on them in addition to the magnetic strips.
Remember, identity thieves will use any and every method to scam you and take away your money. If you want to stay safe from identity thieves then you need to learn more about the techniques that identity thieves use such as skimmers and shoulder surfing.
Don’t Skip On Your Credit Report
Always order your credit report at least once per year. Why? First, because it’s free.
Yes, under United States law, all US citizens are eligible to one free credit report every year from each of the national credit bureaus.
By ordering a credit report, you can check for discrepancies or look for any accounts that you may or may not have opened in the past.
Remember, if someone manipulates your credit report, it’s almost an impossible task to fix it again.
What if you’re not a US citizen?
Well, if you’re a UK citizen, then you’re out of luck since the law there doesn’t entitle anyone to a free credit report.
However, if you’re a UK citizen then you can hire the services of countless credit reporting agencies that often offer free trials to new customers.
You can avail those free trials. If you want to receive a hard copy then that’s okay as well, the only payment you’ll have to make in that case will be of the postage free.
What about Canadians then?
Canadians can also request free credit reports through the mail, but they often have to wait about two to three weeks for the process to finish.
But if you don’t want to wait that long then you can have instant access to your credit report through online methods. But they will cost you some extra money.
If you don’t know anything about your credit report then how would you know if identity thieves have gained access to it or not?
Stay safe from identity thieves by employing these tactics.
That’s it. These are the basic rules you should follow to keep your identity private and out of the hands of identity thieves.