With news of the recent Equifax data breach, it is a good time to review what you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. While some things are out of your control, here are tips for things you can do to help keep your information secure.
Ensure your computer is protected. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as firewall software to protect against malicious programs that may be planted in emails, documents or websites. It is important to keep this computer software current. Manufacturers offer patches, which are small pieces of software to fix flaws in software, and they also provide software upgrades.
Use strong passwords. When creating a password it should be at least eight characters in length with upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols. Your password should not contain any personal information such as your name or those of family members or pets.
Protect Your Personal Information. Never disclose passwords to anyone. Also, do not provide account numbers or answers to security questions unless you are sure of who you’re dealing with and why they need the information. Do not click on links in emails that ask for your personal information. Harmful programs could be embedded in emails and the links provided may lead you to fake versions of what you understand to be legitimate websites. Also beware if pop-up windows. Identity thieves plant pop-up windows on legitimate websites in an effort to steal your identity by acquiring all of your personal information.
Shred sensitive documents. Things like bank statements, credit card offers and cancelled checks all contain information identity thieves can use to access your accounts. Invest in a document shredder to ensure your documents are destroyed properly.
Don’t Overshare Information. Avoid sharing personal information such as birth dates, home addresses and mother’s maiden name on social networking sites because hackers can gather this information to build databases to attempt to access your accounts.
Monitor your credit reports. Continuously monitor your credit report from each credit bureau to ensure nothing is abnormal. You can also choose to subscribe to a credit monitoring service that will alert you when there are any changes to your credit report. In addition, always check your credit and debit card accounts for unauthorized purchases so any fraud can be halted as soon as possible.