December Is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | December 17, 2021

December is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month, but no matter what month it is, it's absolutely essential to protect your credit and identity.

December is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month, but no matter what month it is, it’s absolutely essential to protect your credit and identity. In this week’s article, we’ll share some ways you can help keep you safe from identity theft.

Identity theft can happen in a number of ways: in-person, online, over email or on the phone. However it occurs, identity theft affects a large number of people per year and can really wreck your credit and finances.

Let’s learn about how you can protect your identity and sensitive information online and in-person.

Identity Theft Can Happen To Anyone

No matter how careful you are with your personal information, never assume that you are immune to identity theft.  With so much sensitive financial information stored online, data breaches by well-known companies are unfortunately a common occurrence. Anytime such an incident happens, your identify is at risk.

According to a recent report, 47% of Americans experienced some form of financial identity theft in 2020. That’s nearly half of all adults, and that only includes the cases of identity theft that were properly reported. There could be other cases that were never reported or never even discovered.

There is so much data in today’s world that it’s impossible to keep yourself completely safe, but by understanding the risk of fraud, you can grasp how important it is to follow these and other cybersecurity tips.

Use a VPN When Using Wi-Fi to Increase Data Protection

Never transmit sensitive info over hotel or public wi-fi. If you have to do so, using your mobile phone’s cellular data connection is far more secure.

If you have to use public wi-fi, a virtual private network (or VPN) can help keep you safe. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server, meaning that all your internet usage is routed through this connection. VPNs also mask your IP address (which indicates where you are located and provides information about your computer) and personal information.  Most VPN servers actually have multiple layers of encryption to help keep you and your information safe.

Signing up for a VPN is easy and you can set one up on both your mobile device and your computer. Check out these comprehensive instructions from The Verge, a popular technology publication.

Don’t Share Your Passwords or Use the Same Password for Multiple Sites

Hopefully this tip is common sense, but don’t share your passwords with others, especially people you don’t know. If you do need to share your password, use a password management site like Keeper or LastPass that allows you to share a record with someone without showing them the actual password. Some web browsers also now come with password manager features. If you have to share your password with someone, change your password immediately.

If an identity thief somehow gains one of your passwords, one of the first things they’ll do is to try it on well-known sites. So in addition to not sharing your password with others, don’t use the same password for multiple sites.

A strong password is at least 12 characters long, contains a mix of upper and lowercase letters, contains letters, numbers and symbols, has no ties to your personal information, and doesn’t contain any dictionary words. It should

Sign Up for 2-Factor Authentication

In addition to creating a strong password, always sign up for two-factor authentication whenever possible. Two-factor authentication (or 2FA) is an extra layer of protection for your login info. It usually requires you to sign in with your password and then use a second method to verify it’s you. For example, Google can send a unique code to your phone number or backup email address to confirm it’s really you trying to sign in.

Be Careful About Personal Information On Social Media

In today’s world of posting everything from pictures of your grandkids to what you had for lunch on social media, it’s important to be aware of what personal information you are sharing online. Never share birth date, address, phone number, photos of graduation certificates or personal/company IDs, or personal details that could be used as password reset answers on social media.

Hackers or scammers can easily get information from your Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn profiles and use it to hack into your other accounts or to pose as you. One common tactic by identify thieve is to copy your profile picture and create a fake profile in your name. They then send friend requests to people you know and pose as you to try and gain sensitive information. Another common tactic is to use a completely fake account with either an attractive profile picture and/or impressive sounding title to send you a friend request. Once you accept, the scammer views your profile to mine your personal and contact info.

We live in a very connected world, and it’s more important than ever to protect your information and your family’s information. Staying safe online and practicing these tips will help prevent you from falling victim to identity theft.

 

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