16.7 Million!  That was the number of people who became victims of identity theft in 2017!

16.8 Billion Dollars! That was the amount of money lost through identity theft in 2017!

If you’ve never fallen prey to these cunning identity thieves, don’t smile as yet. You could be next! To help you avoid becoming prey to identity thieves here are 7 critical steps to take precautions.

1.Strengthen your online passwords

Every account you create online must have a password. From your social media account to your online retailers’ account. If any of these passwords leaked or was hacked, it could expose you to identity theft. Your passwords are your online locks.

When buying or installing a lock for your house, you take extra precaution. But, most people never take any care when coming up with their online passwords. They use one single password across all their online accounts. If you do this, you make it very easy for hackers to get a hold of your password and all your personal information.

So, from today, DO NOT use a single password for all your accounts. Instead, use creative passwords that aren’t easy to guess.

2.Make your password recovery just as hard

Most people feel setting up a complex password recovery process as a waste of time. As such, they put their puppy’s name as the answer to their password recovery questions. And, to make it worse, they have multiple videos of the puppy across their social media platform as they call its name.

Hackers go over your social media platforms, gathering all the data to help them figure out not only your password but also your password recovery answers. So, when you make it easy or them, you make yourself an easy target.

3.Guard your personal information with extra caution

Most hackers pretend to be officials from banks or other institutions asking for your personal information for some ‘legal’ purposes. Unknowingly, you give them the information without verifying whether there are legit.  You expose your sensitive personal information to hackers. Before you can do anything to rectify the situation, the damage has already been done.

Never give out your personal information to any person online or over the phone — demand to visit the institution instead of giving the data without a way to verify their credibility.

Note, the financial institutions would never contact you to get your personal information because they already have it. And, if there were a genuine reason for them to contact you, they would request that you visit them to resolve the issue.

4.Do not carry your social security card

Your social security number should be your most valued item if you want to protect yourself from identity theft. If a hacker stole your SS card, they would hurt your financial life in a way that could take you several years to recover.

Some of the ways things they could do include:

  • Filing for taxes returns to get tax refunds
  • Opening bank accounts
  • Getting you in debt

In short, they can use your information to destroy your credit score across all the credit bureaus.

It is therefore critical to ensure that you protect your SS card in all possible ways to avoid losing it. To do this, avoid carrying your card in your wallet. Always leave it at home in a secure place where burglars can also not access it.  And lastly, ensure you memorize your SSN  to avoid being tempted to carry the card.

5.Data protection across your devices

How many people have access to your phone, laptop or PC? How secure are they from the other people who access your home, such as repair technicians.

Most people store a lot of personal information on their devices. Therefore, ensure that you also lock the devices to ensure that anyone who might get hold of them will not access your personal information.  This article- https://www.crediful.com/credit-monitoring/lifelock/ might save you from spending the next few years paying for a debt that hackers got you into.

6.Review your credit report frequently

Some identity thieves are patient and will steal your identity and only make very minimal purchases using your credit cards. It might be hard to note any inconsistencies unless you ask for the report and review it carefully.

Make it a practice to review your credit report every month to check any purchases, new bank accounts, or other practices that you can’t remember. It might help you take precautions before they get you in debt or significantly affect your credit score.

7.Never send personal information over the email

The email isn’t as secure as most people would like to think. It is therefore important to avoid sending any sensitive personal information over email to avoid other prying eyes coming across the information.

Identity thieves only have one goal with your information: to profit from it. So, they will either use your information to directly steal from you, blackmail you or your friends and may even sell your information to other people. Be vigilant.