Do you feel your important document or code is not safe in your wallet? Are you always tensed about your personal information and looking for some strong methods to save your identity. Then here re the brilliant ways to prevent identity theft – keep your identity safe.
Some people think that this crime is annoying but can be easily resolved, and they will restore their identity quickly. But a few people know that they may have to bear the loss of thousands of dollars, and it will take months to resolve and restore. The next thing is scarier; some consumers have even been arrested for the crime committed by someone else by using their identity. The crime of the new digital world is serious, and only the consumer can prevent it by adopting such excellent ways.
What is Identity Theft?
Before discussing the ways to prevent identity theft, let us define the crime in simple words. Identity theft or fraud refers to a crime in which the thief wrongfully uses someone’s PII(personally identifiable information) for financial gain.
It can be accomplished through various crimes, including credit card fraud, account takeovers, social media fraud, hacking, impersonation, phishing, and tech support fraud. The old-fashioned ways like stealing mail from the mailbox, steal wallets and purses, rummage through your trash for bills and bank statements, or make an extra copy of your credit card are some of the popular methods of identity fraud.
Pandemic has made the growing identity theft problem of the US, as now thieves are targeting pandemic relief checks and unemployment benefits. In 2020, FTC received 1.4 million identity fraud complaints, which is 113% up from the previous year.
How to prevent identity theft?
The Federal Trade Commission, US, had tracked 650,572 identity theft complaints in 2019. Such a scary number, and the most shocking thing is that nearly 90% of identity theft happened that year, including fraudulent credit card and mobile phone accounts. According to a survey, up to 9 million Americans have been stolen every year, and at least 534 million personal records is compromised since 2007.
Here are Some Prevention Methods
Freeze credit files
All 3 major credit bureaus allow you to freeze your credit file so that no one can look at your credit report and, of course, cannot open an account, apply for a loan or a new credit card. All three credit bureaus provide a telephonic or mail-in option to freeze your credit files. They will provide you a pin or password, which you can use later if you want to stop your credit freeze temporarily. There are rumors that credit frozen affects the credit score, which is absolutely a false statement. The process is free and never affects credit score anyhow.
Furthermore, the parents should take it seriously, as it is a good idea to freeze your kid’s credit files so that no one can harm their creditworthiness and they can easily apply for a study loan. As per the FTC records, more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft in 2017, and the families had to pay over $540 million from their pocket.
Check mail regularly.
Stealing PII from mailboxes is the most common way of identity fraud, as the thieves can take the bank or credit card statements, utility bills, health care, tax forms, pre-approved credit card offers out of your mailbox. Apart from this, they can also reroute the mails by submitting a change of address request in your bank. It is good to check your mailbox regularly and be concerned if an expected mail is missing there. Furthermore, if you aren’t available, check your mailbox for a few days, then put your mails on hold.
Be alert for phishing.
Phishing is the most popular way to trap an individual to steal their identity. However, the thieves used to send emails containing a jackpot offer so that the targeted person would show interest and click on the links. Furthermore, sometimes the scammers also make a phone call and appear to come from the government entities to steal your PII. keep in mind that banks or any government entity will never make a phone call and ask for your personal information. Secondly, only responses to the mails arrived from an official account. If you do not recognize the mail or call, it is good to visit your bank and inquire about it.
Review bank account statements regularly
Reviewing bank or credit card statements regularly is the best way to prevent identity theft. According to the FTC, credit card scams are the most common type of identity theft, and they could be done easily by paying minimal charges. If the scammer knows your PII, then he or she can get away with it by paying a few dollars like a bank charge to look at the bank or credit card statement and, of course, apply for a new credit card. The charges are minimal and can be easily slipped by the cracks or your financial institutions. Therefore, if you notice any transaction as a bank charge, then strictly do not avoid it.
Shred PI documents
Dumpster still thinks that Phishing scams and online data breaching are old-fashioned, but the scammers are still doing it. If the scammer got the access anyhow, then they can steal all your records. However, there are digital safes to protect your documents, but the thing is, all the documents are protected in one place. Therefore it is good to shred the documents which you don’t need anymore. For example, you can keep the last three m months’ records of credit card and bank statements, utility bills, IRS correspondence, and other documents containing PII and shred the rest.
Create different Passwords and two-step authentication
It seems many times when an individual secures all their essential documents with the same password. But, as per the experts and banking institutions, it is an inaccurate way. However, the passwords are unique and tough to crack by anyone. However, people do so because remembering several passwords is quite tough. If you also do so, then keep one thing in your mind: if one has cracked or got your password for a particular platform where you have kept your documents, they must try the same password for others.
But on the side, if you have created different passwords for several accounts, it is quite tough for the scammer to crack it. If there is a remembering issue, then you can mention a secret hint which only you know. Apart from this, two-step authentication is also a great way to prevent identity theft.
Use digital wallet
The transactions through digital wallets are tokenized and encrypted, making them safer than paying through credit or debit cards. There are many chances of stealing a pin or password if you have paid for your shopping through a credit or debit card. Online shopping is riskier than using credit or debit cards. Digital wallets are the solution for any online transaction, and contactless action is healthier also.
Using high-tech antivirus is also one of the great ways to prevent identity theft. The scammers are used to send malware, including viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software, which can harm you. If your computer slows down, crashes, or shows some error messages, be concerned about it, as someone is attacking your device. Apart from this, pop-ups, changes in the default browser, unwanted ads, and quick battery detain are also signs of malware attacks. The scammers are using these kinds of malware to steal your PII from your personal computer. Therefore, it is good to use updated high-tech antivirus software to automatically detect the malware and put them into the trash.
Check credit reports
Although you have not applied for a loan or credit card yet, it is good to check your credit report regularly. According to the FTC, millions of children got to know that they were victims of identity fraud when they applied for a study loan. They haven’t checked their credit report in the past, and someone has stolen their PII and applied for a loan or credit card. All the credit bureaus, including Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, offer to check your credit report without any cost, so it is good to take advantage of brilliant free service and prevent yourself from identity theft.
Use banking apps
There are many fake websites on different browsers, which scammers make to steal your online banking passwords and other information. You will try to log in through fake websites, and the scammer will easily get your PII. However, it is also a phishing scam, but here you won’t receive any mail from the scammer. The solution is banking apps, which are highly encrypted and more secure than the browser.
What actions can you take?
Whenever you have noticed any change in your credit report of any unrecognized transaction in your bank or credit card statement, the first step is to contact your financial institution. If everything is accurate and there is nothing wrong, relax, otherwise immediately file a police report. However, you have to prove your identity there and yourself as a victim of identity theft. You may have to face a lot of trouble by proving yourself as a victim of identity theft, but it is far better than getting arrested and paying millions from your pocket. Apart from this, if a debt collector comes to your home or you have received any notice from the financial institutions or court, and you haven’t any idea about it, immediately go to the police station.
Top 5 identity theft protection services
EZShield acquired identityForce in 2019 for identity theft monitoring and protection services for businesses and consumers. It costs only $23.95 per month and prevents identity theft features, including sex offenders, mobile attacks, social media, medical ID theft, and tax fraud. One more offer costs $17.95, which also includes the same services as the first pack, but the user cannot get add-ons like credit freezing, credit reports, and mobile apps. The Ultrasecure+credit plan includes a credit score simulator. The only downside of identityForce is that one cannot get a refund if they have purchased the service once.
Experian identity works
Experian Identity works also includes two plans: IdentityWorks Plus for $9.99 and IdentityWorks Premium for $19.99 per month. The plan can cover one adult and up to 10 children or two adults and ten children. The major services provided by the Experian identity works include dark web surveillance, access to U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists, lost wallet assistance, Social Security number monitoring, and change-of-address alerts. The premium plan includes add-on services like payday loan fraud, sex offender registries, court records, social media, file-sharing networks, and financial account activity. It offers a 30-day free trial . the only downside is that customer support service isn’t available for 24 X 7.
More than one million Americans are currently associated with IDShield, which sells subscriptions to individuals, families, and companies that offer the service as an employee benefit. It offers services for monitoring USPS address changes, medical ID theft, or social media. If you compare the rates, you will find the best identity theft protection service in terms of budget and services. The best thing is that a private investigator will help you restore your identity, and it offers a 12-months credit score tracking service. However, the user will not get credit simulation services, which is a single drawback of IDSHield.
The cyber safety provider, LifeLock, was introduced in 2005 to offer identity theft protection for consumers. It is associated with one of the best cybercrime protection software Norton 360, which ensures its wonderful services to keep your computer and other devices safe from scammers. The stolen fund’s reimbursement and personal expense compensation is the most wonderful offer provided by LifeLock. Apart from this, if you purchase an annual pack, you will get a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Privacy guard offers three different plans. The first one is for identity monitoring, and the second one is for credit monitoring. Last and the most expensive one offers a total protection plan for identity theft and credit monitoring. The user can decide which service matters to them most and accordingly purchase the plan. The total protection plan costs only $24.99. One can also purchase it for $1 per day.
What are the Major Types of Identity Theft?
Identity theft commonly happens by stealing your name, address, date of birth, and of course, identity number of driving license, social security number, medical id number, bank account or credit card number, etc. After getting this personal information, thieves can commit fraud on your name. Let’s know the types of identity theft deeply.
Social Security Identity Theft
If the thief knows the information given above, they can apply for a new social security card by claiming the last one is lost and enjoying the luxurious benefits you have worked on all of your adult life. They can steal your hard-earned welfare and HUD benefits, including house vouchers, medical care vouchers, and even obtain a false passport to slip in and out from the USA without apprehension.
Medical Id Theft
Medical id thieves use your information to file false worker compensation claims and gain financial benefits. If you don’t know that someone has already claimed your medical insurance, you must get stuck with the enormous hospital and doctor’s bills.
Character Id Theft
The criminals use someone’s other character id number to accomplish crimes, and when the victim applies for a job, they get pulled over by the police for a particular crime. It is hard to prove that you are a victim and someone else has committed the crime in your good name.
Financial Id Theft
The financial id could be anything from your bank account number to credit or debit card number. The thieves can use your financial aid credentials to apply for loans or a new credit card. When you see your credit report, you will notice a huge loss in your cibil score, as there is a loan taken in your name, and it is not repaid.
Driver’s License Id Theft
Your driving license involves all your PII from your name to address. If your driving license is stolen, it could lead to many serious crimes, from financial fraud to snatching. For example, the thieves can apply for a credit card by using your driving license, and a snatcher can commit a crime and leave your driving license at the crime spot. Police will arrive at your home to arrest you.
Here we have explained what matters the most for the consumers when it comes to identity theft. However, the growing problem of the USA can’t be solved overnight or within a few months. But if every citizen of the region stays concerned about it and goes through the facts described in the article, then the scammers will get jobless in the coming years. The ways to prevent identity theft are so common and feasible; if you adopt it from today, then you can save a lot of your hard-earned money.