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How to prevent identity theft happening to you

Man in shadows working on identity theft on a laptop
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We spend large amounts of our days online and this increases our risks of identity theft. It is therefore important that we learn how to prevent identity theft.

According to the dictionary, identity theft is the fraudulent act of using another person’s name and personal details to obtain credit, loans, etc.

Having your identity stolen can be an incredibly stressful, frustrating, and expensive experience. You don’t know who stole your identity or how they got hold of your details in the first place. You, therefore, need to learn how to prevent identity theft.

There is so much personal information available online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. This information can all be used by fraudsters to try and steal you identity.

You cannot protect yourself 100% from identity theft. There are however things that you can do to reduce the chances of you becoming a victim. Even if you do your best to protect your identity details there are other people, companies and websites who hold your details. These are all susceptible to hacks and leaks which could result in your personal details being stolen.

So how do you prevent identity theft and prevent yourself joining the millions of other identity theft victims? Thankfully there are some ways you can reduce your risk as outlined below.

Strong passwords

It sounds obvious but one of the best ways in protecting your identity data from thieves and hackers is to use strong passwords. Recent research shows that over 23 million people worldwide use ‘123456’ as their password. Other popular passwords with over 3 million users are ‘qwerty’ and ‘password’.

Your identity and personal details need to be protected so do not use obvious passwords such as the name of your partner, child or pet. Instead try to use a mixture of numbers and letters. Using long and complex passwords are a great example of how to prevent identity theft.

Remember not to use the same password for all your online accounts. If you do and someone works one out they will have access to all your online date.

Install the latest software on your devices

Ensure that your laptop, mobile, and other internet devices all have the latest software. Make sure you update to the latest version of any software you use. This is important in order to prevent identity theft happening to you.

If a flaw or bug is identified within a piece of software then this can be taken advantage of by hackers. It is important that you keep your software updated to reduce this risk.

You should ensure that you are using anti-virus or anti-spyware software to protect your data and devices. Bitdefender, Norton and McAfee all offer these types of software and these are invaluable in reducing your chances of having your identity stolen.

Be careful with email

Most of the times phishing scams are obvious but sometimes they can look genuine and legitimate. The only way to avoid these is not to click on links in emails. Instead it is best to contact the sender via another method. This can include phoning them or by finding another contact method from their genuine site.

Avoid using public wifi networks

Whilst using public wifi at coffee shops, restaurant and public transport are handy then can be used by identity thieves. Public wifi requires no authentication to establish a connection. This can provide a hacker with complete access to your device.

Unsecured public wifi can also be used to distribute malware so please think twice before signing in to a public wifi network.

Review your bank and credit card statements

Don’t just file your bank and credit card statements in a drawer. Instead, have a look through them for any unusual transactions. If you do all your banking online then make sure you log in regularly and review your online statements.

If you notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary on your statements make sure you investigate and contact your bank or credit card provider.

Check your credit report

If you check your credit report it will show all sorts of information about yourself. This includes any loans, borrowing or other debts you have from banks and credit card companies. Checking this on a regular basis will help you identify any new loans or borrowings taken out in your name.

The main 3 credit reference agencies who issue reports are Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. Experian are currently offering free credit score.This may be worth looking into if you are curious about your credit score or looking to protect yourself from identity theft.

Only use trustworthy online shops

If you are searching online and come across a site that is selling the product you are after much cheaper than elsewhere then be careful. Generally if something looks to good to be true it is.

Do not buy from online shops unless you have carried out some research into their authenticity. It only takes a few minutes to check reviews. Only spend your money at sites with a secure encrypted connection. It is advisable to use sites whose address begins ‘https’ as these are safer and more secure than those that begin ‘http’.

Two-factor authentication

The use of two-factor authentication is one of the latest ways in protecting you against identity theft. This requires you to complete a second verification check before you are given access to an account.

This technology has been available for several years but is now being used being used by credit card and bank companies as an extra layer of protection. This normally involves you having to submit a code sent to you by email, text or by a phone call. This is more secure as normally identity thieves will not have access to your phone thereby significantly reducing the risk of them stealing your details.

Use a shredder

Identity theft does not always happen online. Some thieves simply go through your rubbish looking for bank statements, credit card statements or any financial documents containing your personal details. You need to make this as difficult as possible for them and an easy way of doing this is to use a shredder.

You should shred all your financial documents. Shredding your documents only takes seconds but gives you piece of mind that your personal information will not fall into the wrong hands.

Shredders do not have to be expensive and you can pick them up from Amazon for a decent price. These can dramatically reduce the risk of your paperwork falling into the wrong hands. This makes it harder for thieves to steal you identity and it is worth using a shredder.

Remain vigilant

The ideas above will help to reduce the risk of you becoming an identity theft victim. No matter how careful you though there is always the risk you could become a victim one day. It can happen anytime anywhere but by being vigilant you can reduce your risk. 

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