5 tips to prevent identity theft

Be suspicious of sketchy things that look like they might be scams.

The idea of identity theft is a scary one. It’s the stuff of nightmares for many tech-savvy people, who could feel utterly betrayed if their identity gets swiped online. Your personal information should be kept, well, personal so that you can avoid having to deal with a stolen-identity situation. Here are some tips to avoid identity theft.

5 tips to prevent identity theft.

1. Stay alert.

Pay attention. The following can signal that your identity has been stolen:

  • Accounts that you didn’t ask for
  • Not getting your bills in the mail (No, this is not a reason for celebration)
  • Getting calls from rude debt collectors about things you didn’t buy
  • Getting credit cards in the mail you didn’t apply for (What the heck?)

If you think something weird is going on, don’t delay. Reach out to the appropriate institution and try to get to the bottom of it.

2. Shred stuff.

Stuff with your personal information on it should be shredded. That includes receipts, documents, and so on.

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3. Be aware of phishing.

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with fish. Phishing is when someone sends you an email but they’re pretending to be someone else. They impersonate a creditable person or place and then try to trick you. Be suspicious of “super urgent” emails asking for sensitive information.

4. Protect your Social Security Number.

Your SSN is very important. It needs to be protected. So, don’t carry it around with you and instead store it somewhere safe. Don’t give it out to anyone unless you super trust the institution you’re providing it for. (And then ask why they need it and how they’ll protect it.)

5. Have strong passwords.

Make sure to pick strong passwords. Throw some numbers in there, or some special characters like @#! – or both. Your password should be more than 8 characters, and it shouldn’t be easy to guess. (No, your mother’s maiden name or “password” don’t cut it.)

Pro tip – You can consider adding an endorsement for identity theft to your home insurance policy.

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