Identity theft is a crime estimated to affect more than 9 million Americans every year. All of us need to take appropriate measures to protect ourselves from falling victim to this crime.

According to research, it takes around 600 hours to restore reputation following identity theft. Though people are getting better at recognition of identity thefts as well as restoring identity following it, the best solution here is preventing it from happening by following a few steps.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a crime where a thief steals personal information such as the name and the social security number for committing fraud.

Identity thieves can use such personal details to apply for credit, file taxes as well as get medical services. This can damage your credit status, costing you time and money to restore your good name. You may not know that you fell a victim to identity theft till you experience financial consequences in the guise of credit collections, mystery bills as well as denied loans.

Here are a few steps you can observe to minimize the chances of identity theft.

Choose Good Passwords and PINs

Choose good passwords and PINs that will be tough to guess even for the people who are privy to your personal information.

You can use the numbers and words that are familiar to you but make sure that you disguise them in a hard to crack code. There are several randomly generated password programs available online that provides virtually unbreakable passwords.

Here are some other good habits you can follow.

  • Do not use the same password for all accounts. Make sure that the passwords are different for all the accounts.
  • Avoid the PINs that can be guessed easily like common numerical sequences, birth dates, phone numbers, etc.
  • The good passwords include both capital as well as small letters, characters and numbers and must be minimum eight characters long.
  • Avoid storing passwords and other sensitive details on the computer. If you need the information digitally, you can store them on CDs or the external hard discs.

Protect the Computer

Most identity thieves use complex software nowadays for obtaining sensitive information like login details and password without the knowledge of the users. Just because you do not see anything wrong with the computer, it does not mean that your computer is safe to use.

A strong, as well as a regularly updated firewall, anti-spyware and an anti-virus program will provide the requisite protection an individual need.

If you are not sure what is best for your computer, you can get in touch with the local computer retailer.

Avoid Giving out The Social Security Number

Think of the digits of the social security number as the combination to your safe containing all the valued details. As soon as the thieves get your number, they can use it for applying for credit cards as well as gain access to other personal information.

Avoid carrying the card in your wallet and be suspicious if anyone asks for it over phone, email or text even if they claim that they are coming from a government agency or a real company. If you are not sure whether the request for your social security number is legitimate, you can get in touch with the concerned company and ask.

Be Wary While You Use Unsecured WiFi

Free WiFi can appear to be godsend if you want to connect to your laptop, smartphone or tablet to check emails or browse internet while you are on the go.

You are bound to be elated if you see a network that is not password protected. Do you know that an unsecured network that does not require a password can be set up by thieves looking forward to intercept data? It is better to avoid using it unless that is absolutely essential.

If you must use an unsecured network, turn off the file sharing option on your computer and designate the network as a public network that limits access. Avoid using public WiFi networks for checking financial accounts, undertake online shopping or pay bills.

Note: Direct fiber optic cable networks are safer in comparison to wireless networks especially when are on the go.

Pay Attention to Bank Statements

With advancement in technology, there are several ways used for money transaction nowadays. Most of you do not get the paper bills either every month and that needs you to spend a little more effort in logging into your accounts and checking the transactions. Regardless of whether you get e-statements or old-fashioned paper bills, make sure to take a look at them properly to locate the strange charges.

In case you see something strange, alert the bank or the creditors as soon as possible.

If you fall a victim to identity theft even after following the above-discussed strategies, act as fast as possible to minimize damage caused to your funds and reputation. Remain aware to be protected.