Identity theft and scams involving stealing personal information are more prevalent than ever before and – to make it worse – are often so sophisticated that they’re increasingly hard to spot. Guarding against identity theft is crucial, as the ramifications can be catastrophic: from compromised personal details to have your bank account ransacked, this type of crime can cause significant financial loss and stress.
Fortunately, you can take plenty of easy steps to keep the personal information belonging to you and your family secure and out of the hands of scammers and criminals. Keep reading to find out what you need to do today to stay safe from identity theft.
First on your to-do list: make sure your online security is fit for purpose and serves you well. You should have high-quality virus and malware protection installed on all of the devices that you and your family use, and it should be updated regularly to ensure that it continues to scan for the latest threats. In the settings, opt for updates to be installed automatically, whenever they become available, to save needing to remember to carry out a manual update.
You could also consider using software that combines virus protection with online security features to keep your information extra safe when you’re on the internet. Typically, this software can scan databases to check if and where your personal details are being used, and can also monitor your various accounts, check your credit report for inconsistencies and even scan the Dark Web to guard against potential identity theft. Have a look at these LifeLock reviews to get an idea of the service and benefits that you can expect to receive from a package like this.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection is an easy way to stay safe online and guard against hackers getting hold of your information, especially when shopping on the internet. A VPN connection uses high-level two-way encryption and masks your device’s IP address, making it extremely difficult for cyber criminals to access the details being exchanged.
Using a VPN when connecting to public wifi is one of the best things you can do to protect your personal details. It’s an inexpensive solution, too, that’s easy to install; some can even be used on several of your devices, so you can ensure that your family’s details are protected.
Password Best Practice
Sometimes, the most effective ways to be safe from identity fraud are the easiest. Your passwords are the gateways to your most sensitive personal information, so ensuring that they are as strong as possible is one of your best lines of defense.
Take some time to carry out a thorough password audit and make changes immediately to those that you identify as weak. When creating a password, avoid using any complete words, but instead use a random combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Also, never use the same password for different accounts or on different platforms, and never use a password that could be easy to guess, such as one that incorporates your address, date of birth, or the name of your child or spouse.
Check Your Social Media Settings
Your social media accounts are a prime way for scammers to get hold of your details – these platforms are often full of a plethora of your personal information, which could be used to create clone accounts or gain access to your sensitive details or passwords, for example.
To guard against this, check your social media’s privacy settings. Make sure that these settings are set to private so that you know that only your friends and connections have access to your posts – regularly check, too, to make sure that your account settings remain on a sufficient privacy setting.
It’s also important to only accept connection requests from people that you know and avoid sharing posts or content beyond your personal circle.
Unsolicited Calls and Messages
Be wary of any unsolicited calls or emails you receive – even those that appear to be legitimate should be treated as suspicious, and avoid ever clicking through to a link in an email or opening an attachment unless you are absolutely sure that it’s legitimate. Phishing scams often work by creating a cloned site that appears genuine; once the victim clicks through via a link and inputs their username, password, or other information, these details can be harvested by the criminals.
If you receive an email purporting to be from your bank, for example, contact your bank directly to check. And be sure, too, to report any suspicious communication that you receive.
Staying Safe Day to Day
There are lots of small things you can do every day that will make a big difference in staying safe from identity fraud. Shredding documents that contain personal information, rather than simply putting them into the trash, is one important way of keeping your details secure.
Checking bank statements regularly, too, will alert you to any anomalies or inconsistencies that could suggest your details have been compromised so that you can take action early. If you’re expecting a new bank or credit card to arrive in the mail and it doesn’t appear when it should, let your bank know immediately and, finally, when moving house, be sure to arrange for your mail to be redirected, thereby avoiding your personal information falling into the wrong hands.