How to Defend Yourself Against Identity Theft
Safeguard your personal information from the latest scams.
The one constant in identity theft schemes is their ever-changing nature. Thieves can access data online or offline; from your mailbox or your doctor’s office; or via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Thieves nearby who carry scanner devices can even surreptitiously “read” information stored on credit cards tucked safely in your wallet.
In addition to finding new paths to your personal information, identity thieves often gain access to your data by taking advantage of current events, specific seasons and even the economic climate. Today’s thieves use stolen information to claim tax refunds, or may focus on accessing employment and medical information. Even children are becoming targets of identity theft, since their information can be used undetected for years.
3 Ways To Protect Yourself
Regardless of the form the scam takes, consumers can minimize the threat of identity theft with some standard precautions:
- Protect your personal information. Store personal documents in a secure place, and shred anything containing sensitive information. Keep computer security software updated. Review credit reports annually. Use caution when opening unfamiliar emails or texts, or when downloading apps. Create strong passwords and change them regularly. And use only secure wireless networks.
- Be picky about whom you give information. Give out personal information only when necessary such as when filing taxes or setting up bank accounts. Even then, work with a credible organization that has safeguards in place to protect your data. Also, avoid sharing on social media: Thieves could use information, such as your hometown or high school, to figure out the answers to your security questions on your online accounts.
- Stay up-to-date on new identity theft scams. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Alerts site for information about new schemes popping up across the country.