The Sunday Herald Salon

Tue 24 January 2017

How Can You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Posted by Jillian Carter in Finance   

Recently there have been many incidents of data breach in various banking institutions and retail agencies, who keep information of their customers. This may not look like a serious matter to anyone at large, as no money was stolen. However, the data that has been stolen is a serious issue. This is because thieves now have this information.

It is the unauthorized use of the personal data, which is usually carried out for pure financial gains. It commences when a thief steals nothing else, but your name, SSN, credit card number, bank account details, username, passwords and any other information that may benefit them. It is not just a violation on a personal level, but it could also become a costly issue for any law-abiding person. Even though, if your bank account is not drained, you might still have to pay for high-priced services and goods, which you might not have ever bought. Hence, you must know how to protect your identity at all time.

How to Protect

There are a few things that you need to do, in order to keep protecting your identity. It is not a tedious job, but with practice; you can keep yourself safe to a large extent.

  1. Monitor: Do check your various financial accounts at regular intervals. This is to be done, even if you don’t use online banking. Do not wait for the end of each month, but check your accounts every now and then. This will keep you notified, if there is any transaction happening, which you don’t know about. Keep the notification and alerts on your accounts activated, so any transaction that may happen; would come to your attention.
  2. Check all your electronic devices: If you are tech-savvy and use a good number of hours accessing email, social media, as well as your bank account on electronic devices; then it’s time for you to be on high alert. Identity thieves steal the data from the electronic media that you may be using, while it is connected with WiFi or hard wire through the net. You must never leave your Smartphone, laptop, tablet, personal computer unattended or in the custody of someone; whom you don’t know. Also, never store sensitive information on your devices, if lost someone may use it.
  3. Clear the history: Always clear the history from your phone, laptop, personal computer, tablet and any other devices that may keep information stored. This applies specially on any of the systems, which don’t belong to you; such as the computers in the public libraries as they could be accessed by anyone after you. It may not completely secure you from the persistent thieves, but it would definitely slow down any process that they may apply to retrieve your personal data.
  4. Frequently change your passwords and PINs: Just in case you are in the habit of using financial accounts through the web, then you must have safety of several layers. This is already there, provided by the financial institution. However, there is still a loophole, which will always remain from your side. It is the sensitive password and PINs that you may be using to access your account. The advice here would be to keep changing both of them frequently to protect identity theft. Always make sure that your log-in details are not known to others. Nonsensical strings of numbers, symbols and letter would always be hard to memorize and remember, but they would be tough passwords and PINs to crack. Always use capital letters, numbers, small case letters and characters such as @ # %.
  5. Cash payments: Always try to limit your exposure to identity theft by reducing the use of credit cards and online transactions. Pay by cash, for the smaller items you purchase. Carrying large sums of cash is not recommended, carrying $100 or $200, is a safer way to protect your credit cards and your identity.
  6. Be informed and stay alert: There are sources where you can keep yourself updated on how to stay alert from any identity theft threat. Inform yourself about the possible methods by which the thieves may steal your identity; that would keep you away from making any mistake.

Protection from identity theft is not something sophisticated, but it’s just a matter of small things to be practiced in order to keep one safe.