New Year’s Resolutions to Keep Your Identity Safe

New Year’s Resolutions to Keep Your Identity Safe

In 2015, we heard about some of the worst data breaches in the history of the digital age. From Ashley Madison to Anthem Blue Cross to Target, a wide percentage of Americans had their information compromised. It is becoming more important to study your digital footprint and analyze the ways that you can keep your identity secure.

As part of the New Year, I’ve put together a few resolutions to increase the chances of protecting my identity and having a scam-free 2016. Have a look!

Regularly Change Passwords

New Year, New Password! That’s what they say, right?

You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it five million times, but I am going to list it anyway. One of the most foolproof ways to keeping your identity safe is to regularly change your passwords, and to keep your most important passwords (i.e. your bank, health insurance, and social security) different from each other.

I know it makes it difficult to remember which password goes to what website, but in the end you’ll be thanking yourself. If your most sensitive information is protected by the same password that you use on a less secure website, a hacker could extract the password data from the weaker site and use the login information to sign into your more important accounts, compromising your identity. 

When you are thinking of passwords, try to avoid obvious combinations, like your birthday mixed with your hometown. Try for letter and number combinations mixed with symbols to ensure that your information is best protected. When you change passwords, try not to switch one character around, it makes it too easy to find out if your old password was found by a hacker. Your best bet is to start new every couple of weeks.

Learn the Telltale Signs of a Scam

If you see something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Red flags include “free” gift cards to instant job offers and scandalous celebrity videos, the Better Business Bureau warns. The BB says you should be skeptical of any communication riddled with typos or poor grammar.

Another good rule of thumb is to think twice if you receive a phone call, text or email from someone requesting personal data if you did not contact that person first. Do your research before providing a stranger with information that could lead to someone stealing your identity.

Remember that you can always call a financial institution back (after using their official number) later, to ensure that you are speaking with someone who has the job of handling your data safely. Be suspicious if the caller says the information is urgent or explains that there may be “dire consequences” if you don’t follow through with the conversation right away.

Trust your instincts. If you have a haunch that someone is looking for to bait a new scam, back off and do your research. Most times, someone else has received the same message you have and posted it on the internet for those who are not as apt at seeming a scam head on.

Review your Credit Report and Financial Statements

Check everything that you can, from credit reports to health insurance documents and bank statements, to be sure that nothing seems off. If you are regularly checking your statements, you will able to recognize things that seem out of place and report them in a timely manner. If you only check every once in a while, you may not remember every transaction made and unusual spending may not seem out of place to you. You might write it off as not remembering. You also lose time, the longer an identity theft goes without being reported the worse it gets.

Don’t forget to also check your Social Security statements. If the income reported doesn’t seem accurate and is inflated, it could be a sign that someone else is using your identity.  Report any inaccuracies immediately.

Don’t forget about the members of your family, too. Teach children how their digital habits could affect their lives and help them to understand the meaning of “identity theft.”  As they grow up, they’ll be more cautious of their habits and ultimately their chances of protecting their identity will be higher.

Most importantly, use common sense. Trust your instinct and be a little suspicious. It could cost you your identity.

Posted by Sydny Shepard on Jan 06, 2016

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