(ConservativeHub.com) – With Americans increasingly falling victim to schemes to gather personal identifying data, safeguarding your identity has never been more critical than it is these days. The United States reported about 650,000 identity theft cases in 2019, more than half of which were attributed to breaches on computers, websites, and databases. So, here are a few ways to ensure your personal data is safe and secure.
How Identity Theft Occurs
Identity theft typically happens when an individual tricks you into turning over personal information to commit financial fraud. For example, a criminal who assumed your identity could use it to open new bank accounts, obtain credit cards, or make purchases. The list is almost limitless to the kinds of ill-gotten gains available to identity thieves.
Signs you may be the victim of identity theft can include:
- Sudden denials of loan applications
- Calls from debt collectors for unknown purchases or accounts
- Inexplicable bank account withdrawals
- Bills for unknown purchases or membership fees for organizations or websites you didn’t join
- You quit receiving regular monthly bills
5 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Falling victim to identity theft can harm your credit score, create tax liabilities, and a host of other problems. It’s virtually impossible to protect yourself completely from harm. However, there are some simple common sense ways you can protect yourself, starting today.
- Never give out your credit card information over the telephone or online unless you initiated the contact, and it’s a known business or person requesting the info.
- Be sure to shred all bank statements, credit card bills, and any other documents containing personal or financial information before throwing them in the garbage.
- When creating passwords, it’s always best to use random letter and number combinations. Never use passwords containing names or dates like your birthday or significant anniversaries.
- Read your bank and credit card statements monthly and check for any unknown transactions. Likewise, make sure to obtain your credit report annually and review it for any accounts you didn’t create.
- Never share personal identifying information on social media accounts, like the year you graduated, your high school name, or your year of birth.
There Is Help
These tips should help prevent most cases of identity theft. However, if you think you may be a victim, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a webpage at www.identitytheft.gov where you can report identity theft and receive assistance with creating a recovery plan.
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