A guest post by Megan Wells from InvestmentZen.com
Identity theft. Those words are enough to start the heart racing. You think, “How can this be? I do everything possible to protect my private information.” Yes, and the criminals always seem to be one step ahead.
Recent financial industry changes like EMV (chip cards), reduced card-cloning in retail stores and some restaurants, but gas stations’ deadline for conversion is years away. Online shopping, which doesn’t require a chip, makes life easier but also increases the risk of card-not-present fraud.
Social media keeps us connected to friends and family, but share too much and you could be the next target for identity theft. Something as simple as a birthday on your profile provides a criminal with information to become you.
While the number of consumers hit with identity theft rose in 2016, the amount per consumer is down thanks to an increase in digital expertise. We catch fraud sooner because we check our accounts more often, limiting the dollar amount.
Protecting yourself doesn’t mean going off the grid, deleting all your profiles and keeping money in a coffee can. Changing a few habits makes a difference.
Be conservative on social media. The world does not need to know your exact address or see a picture of every purchase you make.
Passwords–A thorn in your side because there are SO MANY OF THEM. Yet, that hard-for-you-to-remember password is also hard for the criminal to guess.
Clear your browser history especially after entering credit/debit card information. Treat online retail accounts like a bank account especially if you allow the site to save card information for easier shopping.
Check your credit score regularly or consider putting a freeze on your account. It’s inconvenient when you need to apply for credit but it’s also inconvenient for the criminal.
Finally, monitor your bank and credit accounts for suspicious transactions or unusual activity. Signing up for card-not-present alerts can mean the difference between identity safe and identity stolen.