Identity theft is the most common type of personal fraud that Americans report as of 2020. As data breaches continue and hit new records for lost and stolen data, there is an increasing number of ways that you could be taken advantage of by attackers and people who want your information. We have some information that will help prevent you from personal fraud in 2021.
There is plenty of reason to be concerned, but the right strategies can bring you peace of mind as you move forward with building up your financial wellness without concern that all your hard work will be taken. Unfortunately, identity theft and fraud take many people by surprise because there is not a lot of time to react when charges start appearing on your cards and accounts that you have no idea about.
Here, we explore some of the best ways we know of for preventing identity theft from occurring. Some of the best steps you can take appear on this list, so read on to learn more about what you can do to prevent personal fraud this year.
- Order Credit Reports
You may know that the law offers you a complete and free credit report from the three credit bureaus each year. Your credit file sees the symptoms of identity theft first as checks and other features show up. Stay familiar with what appears on your credit report by ordering it from the three credit bureaus. As you review it, make sure that the data on the file corresponds to your activity and looks typical.
Though this seems like a simple method of prevention, many struggle to remember to review their reports and request them from the major credit reporters. In this case, there is the recommendation of joining a free or paid credit monitoring option that can give you insight into when pulls are made or your credit changes.
The strategy behind this intervention is that time is everything for both the thief and the victim: the more quickly you become aware of unwanted activity, the sooner you can respond. Hopefully, this means that the damage done is minimized. Of course, those very concerned about this rising form of fraud, choose to use identity monitoring services to go the extra mile since they can perform web scans, protect account information, allow safe browsing, and publish anti-phishing tools.
- Read Your Statements.
While the warning signs of theft and identity theft may display themselves first on your credit reports, a financial statement is the next area of need. By checking your bank account and credit card statements every month for fraud and theft activity, you can see if someone is using your information in your name to make purchases and steal money.
Without keeping an eye on your spending and activity, it’s difficult to see when someone has access to your account or card, so stay alert and aware of transactions either as they hit your account, or through careful and regular review of your report and statements.
- Go Paperless.
Paperless billing is more secure and speedy than the mail. While some professionals against identity theft may recommend you safeguard your mailbox (which is a great practice), paperless billing offers a simple way for creditors, banks, and others to reach you without fear of interception.
Digital billing also makes it much easier for you to keep track of bills, reduce paper, and doesn’t allow the notice to be lost or taken.
- Protect Your Devices (and Update)
A phone houses some of the most precious information and credentials in our lives. Protecting your cell phone or computer with proper passwords and software can mean the difference between a fraud-free life and an experience of the worst form of cyber intrusion. In the wrong hands, a password is one of the primary forms of defense against those who want to steal your identity, access accounts, and hack you.
As part of this, you should consider the practice of regularly and immediately installing software updates and security patches from the manufacturers. Attackers can really exploit the vulnerabilities and flaws that they find in older software, making it easier to steal data.
Patches remove these known vulnerabilities, and your operating system will often prompt you to make these updates. Though they can be inconvenient, you should get in the habit of allowing them to occur the next night, when you won’t need your phone or avoid the update.
- Don’t Click Email Links
Scammers and hackers are sophisticated and difficult to identify as technology and tactics change. One of the most common ways that people lose their information and safety is that emails from friends and businesses have convincing fakes. Clicking on a link that has been emailed to you involves a certain amount of risk for this reason.
Even agencies like the FBI advise citizens that the methods criminals are using to commit fraud are more difficult than ever to spot with red flags. It makes a personal commitment to oneself and an attentive awareness to pull back from clicking emailed links because it’s incredibly natural and easy. But, the discerning user will know some offers are too good to be true and that some messages in their inbox are truly malicious.
Consider this. The risk that identity theft poses each year mounts higher and leads to countless dollars being stolen from victims who struggle for weeks, months, years to recoup the loss. Make sure to consider the ways that you might have vulnerabilities to attackers such as online shopping habits or weak passwords.
Taking steps to protect yourself will help you cope with the fear of fraud and also save you from suffering some of the same damage you hear stories about in the news.
To get started with secure savings and checking from SEI Credit Union, contact us to learn more about how we can keep you safe and thriving.