With tax time just around the corner it’s not only a good time to do a little financial spring cleanup, but it’s also a great time to take some precautions to avoid identity theft. ID theft results in billions of dollars lost each year, and tax time identity theft is riskier than ever. ID thieves can get ahold of your tax refund simply with your social security number and name!
How can you protect yourself in our increasingly digital (and complex) world? I share my advice.
5 simple tips to help you protect your identity
1) Don’t go mobile. I know it’s convenient and easy, using mobile technology to pay bills, transfer funds, or even deposit checks isn’t always safe. If you must use your smartphone or tablet with secure financial info be sure to do so only on you home wifi network (which should be password protected) and clear all your history and cookies when you are done.
Tip: Use a complex password for your technology so if your laptop, iPad or phone is stolen the thieves won’t be able to easily access your stored information.
2. Look before you click. Don’t click a link or enter your credit card information into any website before checking on a few things. If you’re concerned about a link-just don’t open it. You can right-click to copy the address and paste it into a document or your browser bar without clicking on it. This will help you see the link, and figure out if it’s really taking you where you want to go.
If you are purchasing online consider using one particular card and monitor it carefully. Some credit card companies even offer a special ‘online’ credit card number that is not your actual credit card number to help ward off theft. Look for the S after http in your browser-if you don’t see it, it’s not a secure site, and you should not enter any sensitive data.
3. Go paperless when possible. Whenever possible choose paperless options for bills, statements, and any other paperwork you can. While it’s possible to steal your identity online it’s much less likely that sensitive papers will be viewed by anyone but you.
4. Update your passwords. Be sure to change your passwords monthly or quarterly to prevent ID theft. Choose a complex password, and do not use the same password for every account. If you need to track your passwords you can use a program like LastPass or 1Password (for Mac) to keep track of passwords, create an encrypted document on your computer, or go old school and use a pen and paper (just be sure to put it in a lockbox or safe when you are done using it).
5. Know how identity theft happens. Knowing the risk factors. Learn how identity theft can happen. These are key to helping you understand how to prevent ID theft.
Tip: Enroll in a credit monitoring or identity monitoring program such as Identity Guard that will alert you when your identity or credit is used. This will allow you to have peace of mind and not get hit with thousands of dollars in unexpected bills.
Have you ever had your identity stolen? What tips and advice do you have to keep your identity safe?
Disclosure: This service was provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.