Have you been notified that your personal data has been leaked? Are you a customer of a company that has recently experienced a breach? Are you confused about how to make sure your identity and finances are protected? Here’s where to start.
01 Freeze and Monitor Your Credit
The most impactful action that you can take to help prevent identity theft is to freeze your credit file with the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Freezing and unfreezing your credit is free and should only take 15-20 minutes. Freezing your credit file will make it much more difficult for someone to open credit in your name, even if they’ve stolen your Social Security number.
Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. There are both free and paid options for credit monitoring, but for the most coverage and best protection, you’ll want to identify a service that monitors all three credit bureaus and sends you timely alerts regarding activity in your file.
02 Change Your Passwords
Using weak or recycled passwords and relying on two factor authentication to keep your important accounts protected won’t cut it anymore. With the advent of sim swapping, using two factor authentication to receive verification codes via text is no longer a reliable method of keeping your information secure.
Where you can, update your passwords so that they consist of a random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Use a password manager to store and remember them. Transitioning to a password manager can seem like a hassle, but once you’ve worked it into your routine, you’ll forget that you were ever concerned in the first place. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
Continue to set up two factor authentication for your accounts and, when possible, opt to use an authentication app over text verification codes.
03 Consider Your Children May Have Been Breached, Too
Children under the age of 18 are often the target of child identity theft, because their credit score is completely unmarked. Posting information about your children on social media, even if it's just their full names and birthdays, can be just as dangerous as posting your own.
04 Check Your Financial and Medical Statements
If your credit report is the first place you might see warning signs of identity theft, your financial and medical statements are the second. Check your monthly bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity.
05 Tighten Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Most of us provide our personal information – name, birthday, job, hometown – on our social media profiles without a second thought. But if a bad actor wants to collect information about you, social media is going to be their first stop.
To help prevent identity theft, it’s worthwhile to consider what information you’re revealing about yourself and your family and who might be in the audience each time that you post on social media. For platforms like Facebook, which has variable visibility settings for posts that you make to your profile, spend some time to see what posts you’ve made that are publicly visible, and what someone might be able to learn about you from reading them.
06 Don’t Ignore Any Suspicious Activity
When it comes to identity theft, time is everything. The faster you're aware of suspicious activity, the faster you can act, and the less damage an identity theft can do to your reputation. Utilizing automatic credit monitoring to receive fast alerts gives you the time that you need to put a stop to identity fraud.