In 2017 identity thieves committed some high-profile data breaches, perhaps most notably the Equifax breach announced in July. However, did you know, while that breach was massive, many more identities were stolen last year? The total stats for 2017 aren’t out yet but with the increased number of breaches each year, the outlook looks grim.
After a data breach, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world but what it does mean is collectively we have to be proactive to better safeguard ourselves as risks increase. Here are five good steps to take to protect yourself from identity theft in 2018.
1. File your taxes early
Tax fraud is one of the biggest complaints associated with identity theft. Often people will buy Social Security numbers off the black market and use them for employment. Or, alternatively, they’ll use your SSN number and steal your refund. Even if you owe money, file early because you don’t have to pay your tax bill until April 15.
2. Monitor your bank and credit accounts carefully
Take the time to monitor your bank and credit accounts daily or, at least weekly. Criminals like to make small changes to test accounts hoping people won’t notice them. Pay careful attention and report any discrepancies, even if it’s a few pennies, small withdrawals or deposits are a huge red flag.
3. Routinely check your credit report
Did you know you can get a free credit report every year from each of the primary credit reporting agencies? Examine the activity on your report and make sure nothing is amiss. Additionally, you can set a credit freeze to stop ID thieves from opening new accounts or applying for loans (usually there is a nominal fee associated with a freeze). Keep in mind a freeze doesn’t protect existing accounts; you’ll have to monitor those.
4. Consider monitored home security
Thieves these days are interested in valuables such as cash, jewelry, or electronics but many of them go out specifically looking to steal personal information. They’ll break into houses, swipe mail from mailboxes, or dig through garbage. You should definitely lock up and/or shred personal information. Also, consider having your home monitored in real time. This way if an intruder enters, immediate action is taken. Stand-alone cameras are better than nothing but they won’t prevent a thief from making off with your valuables or your identity.
5. Be careful online
A good New Year’s resolution is to turn off apps relating to geo-location and clean up your social media accounts. Scrub profiles of personal information that can be used to steal your identity. Did you know, sharing small details, such as your photo, birthday, and location, combined together can offer enough information for a thief to steal your identity? Additionally, after major data breaches occur, ID thieves tend to amp up their attempts to trick people into giving up even more information. They play on fear to try and capitalize on data breaches, so always beware of phishing and other attempts on social networks or anywhere else.
The police can’t protect consumers. People need to be more aware and educated about identity theft. You need to be a little bit wiser, a little bit smarter and there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical. We live in a time when if you make it easy for someone to steal from you, someone will. – Frank Abagnale
Want to learn more about how Protect America can help you protect yourself and your family? Give us a call today.