10 Ways to Keep Your Identity Safe in 2016

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10 Ways to Keep Your Identity Safe in 2016

security2016 has arrived. If you’re like 45% of Americans, you made New Year’s resolutions to ensure that it’s your best year yet. Getting in shape, saving money and achieving a better work-life balance are always popular goals. But you may be forgetting to take strides to protect your finances this year and beyond.

It’s not too late to get serious about keeping your identity safe. To avoid losing what you’ve worked so hard to obtain, follow these 10 tips to keep your identity right where it belongs–with you.

1. Keep Up With Your Bills and Statements

Online banking is great. With a simple click, you can knock out all those bills that were hanging over your head moments before. But convenience has a downside. If you’re just paying off balances without monitoring transactions, you’re more susceptible to identity theft.

Make it a goal to check your transactions and statements daily. Many thieves will make a small purchase to check the validity of the card before bringing out all the stops. Catching a suspicious purchase right away makes it easier to avoid full-on identity theft.

2. Don’t Click Blindly

Random, cold emails and messages are not to be trusted. Hackers are smarter these days and are taking over your Facebook friends and email buddies’ accounts to send very real looking messages.

If you receive a strange email, avoid clicking any links or downloading any attachments. These messages are usually part of phishing (a means to obtain your private information).

3. Start Shredding

Hopefully you shred all sensitive documents already but if not, it’s time to get started. Bank statements, personal letters and confidential paperwork are all highly attractive to identity thieves. They make easier for these scam-artists to pry inside your life and learn more about you.

4. Stop Using the Same Old Password

Recycling an old password helps you now but may hurt you later. If you have trouble remembering all your different passwords (and who doesn’t?), try using variations of the same idea. Alternate capital letters, symbols and numbers in your passwords.

Avoid reusing the same password for your primary email account. Getting into your email is one of the best ways for scammers to access dozens of other personal accounts.

5. Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi

It’s fun. It’s free. It’s dangerous. Sure, public Wi-Fi makes staying in the limits of your data plan a breeze. But it also shares your information with whoever is smart enough to access it.

Avoid making purchases, banking or sending sensitive information over public Wi-Fi. Secured networks are always your best bet when sharing internet with others.

6. Follow Your Credit Reports

It may have been a while since you last checked in with your rating. Scammers are well-aware of our tendencies to avoid reviewing this information and use it to their advantage.

Keep up with credit rating alerts as a big change could indicate identity theft.

7. Be Social Media Savvy

Remember when it wasn’t possible to find out where someone worked, their address and what they ate for dinner last night? Social media has made the concept of oversharing a reality.

While hackers and scammers probably don’t care much about your baby photos, they might be interested in finding out your child’s name as a way to crack your password.

Stay savvy while enjoying social media:

  • Alternate passwords
  • Create lists to determine who you share what information with
  • Avoid geotagging/sharing your location
  • Never add strangers
  • Keep accounts private

8. Use Secure Websites When Shopping Online

Shopping online is convenient and often cheaper but poses unique risks. To avoid sharing your financial and private information when you shop, only use secure websites.

Look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s URL to check for an SSL certificate. You’ll also want to stick with pages that have Extended Validation (EV) whenever possible. This validation is denoted with a green address bar and lock icon.

9. Divide Up Email Accounts

As our personal and work lives begin to overlap more and more, so do our email accounts. When you have the majority of your email coming into a sole account, you’re storing a mother-load of private information.

Do yourself a favor and create a personal, work, and extra email account to avoid stacking the deck.

10. Lock Up Your Devices

A passcode or pin is the first line of defense for your computer, tablet, smartphone, wearables, etc. While a password won’t deter a particularly hard-headed hacker, it does make things more difficult. For an extra layer of protection, use touch IDs whenever possible.

To better protect your identity, reach out to a professional. Prudential Associates provides professional investigative services throughout Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. For more information, contact us at (301) 279-6700.