Protecting your identity requires vigilance, time and effort. ID theft protection companies can help you with this task, while also reducing the amount of personal resources you expend in the process. Still, there are ways you can protect your identity on your own, as long as you are willing to spare some time and energy.
How do I protect my identity?
There are two primary ways to protect yourself: by safeguarding your personal information and monitoring your credit.
Protecting your information
When the question is how to protect your identity, the answer largely involves keeping your information from falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, this precaution can be more complicated than you think. Your data is everywhere, from bank statements to online transactions to medical records. Your personal information also passes through the hands of many different people and organizations, so it can be hard to know if it is always being handled securely.
Identity theft protection companies can help you protect your identity by alerting you if your information shows up somewhere it shouldn’t be. For instance, some providers offer black market website surveillance, a feature that scans online black markets to see if your personal information is being sold or bought illegally.
In addition to the services offered by an ID theft protection company, here are a few of the protective measures you can take on your own:
- Shred documents that contain sensitive information, such as bank statements, medical statements and pre-approved credit card offers.
- Do not use your Social Security Number (SSN) as an account number. Provide your SSN only when it is absolutely necessary and disclose it only it to trusted, legitimate organizations.
- Do not carry your SSN around with you in your wallet.
- Avoid opening suspicious looking emails and never respond to them with your personal information.
- Watch for shoulder surfers at banks, stores and ATMS; they may be looking to record your PIN number.
Monitoring your credit
The other key way you can protect your identity is by keeping a close eye on your credit. You can do this by requesting a free annual credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus and taking immediate action if you find any unexpected changes. If you subscribe to an ID theft protection service, they can provide you with free credit scores so you can track important changes.
There is a lot to remember when it comes to securing your identity. Consider using the identity theft protection checklist to help you keep track of the steps you need to take on an ongoing basis.