Identity theft used to be prevented by shredding all of your important documents. Although that is still a practice used, the digitization of data has significantly increased the risk of stolen data. Now, couple that with an increased frequency of personally identifiable information (PII) being shared, and the risk of identity theft becomes immanent.
5 Steps to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft
Once your PII is shared with a third party, it becomes their responsibility to keep it secure. Unfortunately, this also means at this point, it becomes out of your control. However, there are five steps you can take that will reduce your risk of falling victim to identity theft. Let’s take a look.
Be Aware of What You’re Sharing
We have all seen them…the social media posts that offer your “elf” or “beach bum” name, or something of the sort. There will be a chart of all the months and various names correlated with them, and you add that result to the name of the street you grew up on, mother’s maiden name, or something similar. Although they seem funny and harmless, they can be used maliciously. But how? Many of the things included in these fake names are also the answers to security questions.
Be mindful of what you share, and where.
Read the Terms & Conditions
Too often Accept is clicked, checkboxes are checked, and terms are agreed upon without giving it a second thought. The reality is, when you give your information to a third party, they can do several different things with it. The key is, they have to tell you if they will share it with another party. They do this in the terms and conditions or end-user agreement, both of which are rarely read.
Understand what you’re agreeing to, before simply clicking Accept.
We are past the times of financial institutions and medical facilities being the primary places we share our personal data. Now, to download apps on mobile devices we will share our names, birthdates, set up passwords, and even input banking information. We have become a society that is far too comfortable giving information to access a “free” platform. Keep in mind, nothing is free – you’re actually trading your information for access.
“If something is free, you’re the product.”Richard Serra
By being selective of what you download and the information you share, your risk of identity theft is reduced.
Monitor for Breaches
Breaches are more than compromised payment information or PII. It is also important to monitor for breaches of email addresses as passwords. Email and password credentials are detrimental to your identity protection for the following reasons:
- Your email address is often the user ID to access various platforms
- Passwords are often repurposed for multiple accounts
- Once the password is compromised, the platforms it is used for are also compromised
- Once email address and password are compromised, your email account can be breached
- Email inboxes house various documents, accounts, and insights to steal an individual’s identity
Use sites like Have I Been Pwned to determine if your email has been compromised, and if so, which data breach exposed it.
Be Proactive to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft
Always check your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. If you see something on your statement that was unauthorized, report it to the financial institution immediately. It is also important to monitor your social media accounts for suspicious activity, and report anything questionable. As a final step of prevention, many individuals opt to invest in identity theft protection.
Follow these five tips and stay safe out there!