The identity thief may use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
- Don’t share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it.
- Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles . If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Use the security features on your mobile phone.
- Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public wi-fi network . Use a virtual private network (VPN) , if you use public wi-fi.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
- Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don’t include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annualcreditreport.com.
- Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.
Medical identity theft happens when someone uses your name, Social Security number, insurance plan number, or other personal information to get:
- Medical care
- Access to your medical records
- Coverage under your name from your insurance company or Medicare