Did you know that millions of people are affected by identity theft every year? You might even be one of them if you’ve ever had a debit or credit card compromised, or had one of your online accounts broken into.
I know I’ve been a victim of identity theft, and that’s why I’ve started doing a few small yet impactful things to safeguard myself from it ever happening again.
Make your passwords impenetrable
For the longest time I did one of the dumbest things imaginable. I only used two or three passwords for all of my online accounts, and I wrote them down in a word doc saved to my laptop. The chances of one of my accounts being cracked open? Very high!
Then one day I was listening to a podcast where the host shared how her Instagram was hacked and it rocked her world. She did the same thing as I did. She just used a handful of non-complex passwords, and boy did she pay the price for it!
Now I use a password app that generates hard-to-crack passwords for all my accounts and stores them securely on my phone and computer. It literally took me an hour to update all of my accounts and now I’m happily in the safe zone.
Monitor all of your accounts regularly
I’m a bit odd in that I actually really enjoy checking my bank accounts and credit card statements regularly. It’s partly because I like to track my spending so I can make sure I’m on my way to achieving my financial goals, but I also get a weird sense of satisfaction when I catch a suspicious charge.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught something that didn’t look quite right (OK I can, it’s maybe like 5 or 6). Most of those were mischarges from my cell phone company, but I did actually catch one that was deemed suspicious and I was issued a new credit card because of my eagle eye.
Avoid phishing traps
Raise your hand if you’ve ever received an email from someone you’ve never met saying a distant relative of yours has died and they’ve left their fortune to you. Or a Nigerian prince wants to connect with you, but they just need your credit card number so they can buy a flight to your hometown. These are called phishing scams because they are trying to get you to offer personal information over email so they can steal your identity.
Some are easier to spot than others. And I won’t lie, I’ve received a few emails that looked almost convincing.
The rule of thumb is to remember that a legitimate company will never contact you over email if they need your personal information. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be fine.
Shred your documents
If you think it’s a crazy notion that anyone would dumpster dive to get their hands on your important documents, think again. They will and they do.
If you’re going through your old paperwork with any kind of personal information on it, don’t just rip it up into four pieces then throw it away. Shred it with a shredding machine, then scatter the pieces in your recycling bin so it’ll be near impossible to put back together.
Don’t keep your social security card in your wallet
I’m embarrassed to admit that I was guilty of this for years. My reasoning was that I might need it in an emergency. Then one day my husband asked me “Why don’t you just memorize it like you do your phone number?” So simple and yet I had literally never thought of it before.
The greater risk is having someone steal your Social Security card out of your wallet than you being in an emergency situation and needing it on you. Make it a goal this week to read the numbers to yourself until you can say it backwards and forwards without even looking at it. And in case I wasn’t super clear, that’s practicing it in your head…not out loud for the whole world to hear you.