7 Careful Habits to Prevent Identity Fraud

Although government agencies are working hard to prevent identity theft, it is fast becoming a huge problem in the United States. According to figures released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16.6 million Americans experienced at least one identity theft incident in 2012. In total, identity theft victims lost more than $24.7 billion in 2012 alone. Another report published by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) shows that the healthcare sector accounts for 43% of all data breaches that lead to identity theft. The good news is you do not have to be a victim of identity fraud. Here are steps you can take to ensure you do not become a statistic of this crime:

Monitor Your Credit Report

First, you should be checking your credit report at least once every year. In fact, the law entitles you to a free credit report annually. You can request for a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — every four months. When you receive your reports, scrutinize them for unusual money transfers, withdrawals, or credit lines you did not open.

Create Strong Passwords to Prevent Identity Fraud

Never use birthday or wedding dates as your bank account PINs. A determined hacker can easily guess such PIN numbers by simply checking accounts you maintain on social networking sites. To be on the safe side, create strong passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that have no bearing or relation to your personal life.

Do Not Reveal Too Much Information on Social Networking Sites

Most people reveal too much information when they visit social networking sites. For instance, you should never auto upload a photo to any social networking site with location services turned on. This is because a cybercriminal can easily map your movements using such information to determine where you are likely to withdraw money from an ATM machine. Such a hacker could then install a data skimming device on ATM machines you are likely to use and steal your personal details.

Destroy Documents That Contain Your Personal Information

Develop a habit of destroying or shredding documents that contain your personal information such as social security number, name, date of birth, and bank account details. If you just toss such documents into the trash bin, cyber criminals could use them to steal your identity.

Prevent Identity Theft by Maintaining Vigilance Online

Many people fall victim to identity theft fraudsters because they fail to maintain vigilance when browsing the Internet. To start with, never download and open unsolicited email attachments. You may download spyware into your PC or mobile device. Cybercriminals use spyware to log keystrokes that people make on their computers, for example, when using online banking facilities. Other Internet safety tips include clearing your passwords and login information from your browser as well as avoiding the dark web.

Secure Mail Delivery

Identity thieves can grab letters that contain personal information from your mailbox. For this reason, it is wise to have your mail delivered to a secure location. In addition, it is wise to use a locking mailbox.

Prevent Disclosure of Your Personal Information to Third Parties

Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) usually sell personal information to businesses that would like to offer credit facilities to their customers. However, there is simply no guarantee such information will never find its way into the hands of identify thieves. Fortunately, you can prevent clearing houses from selling your personal information to third parties by opting out of “prescreened offers” or suing a CRA that violates your rights as laid out in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

In summary, to prevent identity fraud, you have to take proactive steps including creating and using strong passwords, destroying documents that contain personal information, monitoring your credit report, and using a secure mail delivery location.

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