It happens far too often. It could happen when you’re shopping online for new clothes; maybe you’re just paying off your monthly cell phone or car payments. A few days, weeks or even months could pass by before you realize …you’ve been hacked!
It’s happened to me on a couple different occasions. In fact, LifeLock, a leader in identify theft protection, estimates that 11.6 million Americans were victims to identity theft last year. Did I mention it happens a lot?
If you’ve been a victim, you know it’s a hassle. Between canceling all your credit cards to changing all your online account passwords (not to mention losing money!), the entire ordeal is more than stressful. It’s also time consuming.
You don’t have to fret. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your identity online which includes bank accounts and other sensitive information from theft:
Don’t Reveal Your Passwords
Not to your family. Not to your best friend. Not to anyone! All it takes is one little mistake by the person you gave your password to and boom…you’re hacked. Now I’m not saying that your family or friends are untrustworthy. I am saying, however, that accidents happen. For example, rent is due, but you’re too busy to get to it while at work. You text your roommate your account information and tell them to withdraw the money for you. No problem, right? That is until your roommate loses his cell phone and someone picks it up with all your information stored right there.
While we’re talking about passwords, don’t use the same password for every account. The hassle of remembering eight different passwords is a lot easier to deal with than the hassle you’ll go through if someone finds out your password and has log-in information for all of your accounts. Do yourself a favor and make sure all your passwords are completely different from one another.
It’s that simple. It’s a step that takes a couple seconds tops, yet some people overlook it. Simply log out as soon as you’re done in your accounts to ensure that whoever uses the computer after you won’t have access to any of your information. This is especially essential if you’re using a public computer.
Check Your Bank Accounts/Statements
Do this often, as in every couple days or at least once a week. Don’t just wait for your monthly statement. If there are any inaccuracies, dispute them. The more you check on your accounts, the better chance you’ll have of catching any wrongdoing before it gets out of control. Again, it’s another easy step that doesn’t take more than a couple minutes.
This step is good for the environment and your financial well-being. If your mail gets mixed up and delivered to the wrong address, whoever receives it could use your information. Don’t let this happen. Have your bills/statements delivered to your inbox. That way, you’re the only one who has access to the information.
Limit Online Information
It might not seem like a big deal, but you’re better off leaving facts about yourself (such as full birthday, phone number, address) off of sites such as Facebook. The more information someone is able to gather about you, the better chance they’ll have of unlocking some of your accounts. Be careful of the information you post to the public. Also, when creating passwords, never use information such as your birthday, phone number or address as part of the password. As obvious as it may sound, it’s a common mistake.
Set Banking Alerts
If you want to be notified via text message anytime a transaction is processed from your account, you can have your bank send you an automatic text. If you didn’t make a purchase, obviously you’ll know someone has accessed your information.
There are plenty of identity protection services available, such as LifeLock, to help you. For $10 per month or $110 for the year, you can get LifeLock’s industry-leading identity theft protection service along with a $1 million total service guarantee. For $25 a month or $275 for the year, you’ll get LifeLock’s daily monitoring of all three credit bureau reports, checking and savings account application alerts, along with much more.
In order to protect your identity, follow the above steps. If you’re interested in what apps are out there to help, check back next week. I’ll review some of the top apps for protecting your identity and let you know which ones may work best for you!
Do you have any other suggestions for protecting your online identity? Please share them with us in the comments below!