We live in a world where everyone is at risk of identity theft and being hacked.
Identity theft, in simple terms, is where one’s personal information is taken and used without their consent.
Each year, tens of millions of Americans become victims of identity theft and hackers, and that number is only growing every year. For instance, from 2015 to 2016, there was a 32% increase in the number of hacked sites.
This is why it’s incredibly important that you take action as soon as possible to limit the chances of you becoming a victim as much as possible.
Here are simple steps that you can take to protect yourself against identity theft as a prepper:
Keep Close Tabs On Your Financial Accounts
Actually take the time to monitor your financial accounts. This means reading your bank and credit card statements to ensure that you recognize each charge. If there are any charges whatsoever that you don’t remember, investigate it quickly.
Since you can get three free credit reports each year (one from each of the major bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), actually make use of those reports. Three times a year, request a report from a new bureau and check for any incorrect information.
What do you do if you find any evidence of fraud or identity theft? Get in contact with your financial institution, as well as a credit bureau, immediately and report the issue to them. You can then work with them to figure out the best course of action to take from there.
While carefully monitoring your financial accounts in this manner may seem boring or tedious, it really is one of the best things you can do to keep an eye out for anything that seems awry.
Freeze (or Lock) Your Credit
One of the simplest ways to restrict the use of your credit information will be to either freeze or lock your credit, which you can easily do with each of the three major credit bureaus.
What’s the difference between freezing and locking your credit? These terms are often used as one and the same, and both do offer you similar protections to protect your credit information, but there are still differences between them.
Generally speaking, the main difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock is that it is much easier to unlock a credit lock versus a credit freeze (referred to as a ‘thaw’). That being said, freezing your credit offers you legal protections that a credit lock does not.
Freezing your credit at any of the major bureaus mean that you are restricting access to your credit reports so that other people (including lenders) are unable to see it.
This serves as a level of protection against fraudulent accounts, and is a smart action to take if you believe you have become a victim of identity theft. To ‘thaw’ your credit, you’ll need to authorize each respective bureau through the use of a ten digit pin.
A credit lock can be more convenient, because you can quickly lock and unlock access to your credit. In other words, you can keep your credit information locked, but then quickly unlock it for if and when lenders request to see your credit history.
Unlike credit freezes, credit locks are not protected by the Federal government, so there is no guarantee that things will work smoothly and free of errors.
Use A Password Manager
Using passwords that include dictionary words, simple numbers, your name, the name of a friend or family member, your birthday, or anything else personal about you means that you are taking an extraordinarily huge risk of becoming an identity theft victim.
Instead, the passwords that you use need to follow this criteria:
- Have at least eight to ten digits
- Contain both uppercase and lowercase letters
- Include numbers and special characters/symbols
Using a strong password by following the above criteria does not guarantee that your information won’t be hacked, but it does significantly reduce the chances of it being so.
One of the very best tools that you can use when creating tools is a password manager. Since you’re unlikely to remember all of the Lon and complicated passwords you come up with, you can use a password manager to remember (and change) them for you.
Basically, a password manager is used to create passwords and then store them inside of the software. The manager will then sync across all of your devices, and each of your passwords will be changed regularly as an extra level of security. The only password that you will personally need to remember is the one that grants you access to the manager.
There are many excellent password managers as well, but one of the best is Dashlane. Around since 2012, Dashlane works on Windows, iS, Mac, Android, Chrome OS, Watch OS, and Linux and provides you with a truly excellent user interface.
It is definitely one of the more expensive options for a password manager out there, but it will also instantly change each of your passwords on a continuous basis and the software has continued to improve in functionality with each passing year.
Have A Fraud Alert Placed On Your Credit Reports
If you have any reason to suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, you’ll immediately want to place a fraud alert on your reports.
Take note that you don’t just need to place a fraud alert on your credit report if you know you’ve been compromised, but also if you suspect you have been as well. Just place the fraud alert on the credit bureaus, and it will then contact the other two.
Once you have placed a fraud alert on your reports, your lenders and credit card issuers will then pull your credit reports and get in-touch with you before opening a new account under your name.
There are also two primary types of fraud alerts that you can place on your credit reports.
The first is the Initial Fraud Alert, which lasts up to 90 days and requires each creditor to take additional steps to confirm that anyone making a credit request in your name is indeed you. This is the kind of fraud alert you need to place if you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
The second is an Extended Fraud Alert, which is the fraud alert you need to place if you know definitively that you’ve been a victim. You can only place an Extended Fraud Alert on your credit reports after filing a police report, and it requires any creditor to contact you either through phone or in-person I anyone is making a credit request in your name.
With millions of people becoming victims of identity theft each year, it’s crucial that you take the necessary action to limit the chances of you becoming one of those victims.
No, you can’t guarantee that you’ll never become a victim of identity theft, but you can reduce the chances of becoming a victim, and that’s what matters. You may always be a target, but if you can keep your exposure and vulnerabilities to a minimum, it will be far more difficult for hackers and thieves to be successful in their exploits to steal your information.