While all types of fraud pose serious challenges, identity theft is one of the most powerful and consumers must take special care to detect and avoid it. People need to educate themselves about protecting their personal information, but many may feel that they don't know where to start. There are five main steps you can take to protect yourself against identity theft and prevent fraudsters and fraudsters from obtaining personal information or accessing accounts.
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Beware of phishing
Phishing emails (opens in a new tab) are a vital tactic for scammers and have outgrown the clumsy and poorly written efforts of the past. However, many still contain telltale signs of a scam, such as poor formatting and unofficial email addresses. Phishing emails (opens in a new tab) are designed to convince consumers to click on a malicious link. Therefore, consumers should avoid following links that they do not recognize. Pay special attention to an email that requires immediate action, such as demanding payment to maintain your energy; scammers know that consumers are more likely to make a mistake if there is urgency.
The best way to eliminate fakes is to independently verify the information by logging into personal accounts on the company's website. Companies often post a warning on their website if they become aware of the scam email. Smishing, where phishing is done via text messages, is not a new threat, but it has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic and represents another avenue that consumers need to be very vigilant about.
(*5*)Enable two-factor authentication
Many online accounts offer two-factor authentication, which can help prevent online account takeovers. Text messaging is the second most popular factor, but it's also vulnerable to takeover, so people should choose another factor, if one exists.
Sign up for activity alerts from financial institutions
Signing up for activity alerts with banks or credit card companies can alert consumers to suspicious activity associated with their accounts. People are notified immediately, which can prevent further charges or fraudulent withdrawals. Do not delay in reporting suspected fraud to your bank, and inquire about the possibility of closing the account in question.
Set up identity and credit monitoring
People can sign up with a credit and identity monitoring service that will provide a warning if their data is at risk. Personal information is often traded on the dark web, and monitoring services focus on where data is known to be bought and sold and send alerts if personal data is identified. Credit monitoring services alert people if there has been a change in their credit profile, such as new lines of business or firm credit applications. If people are concerned that their information has been used fraudulently, a professional can determine the extent of the fraud and help restore identity.
Follow password security best practices
There are many tips available on how to create strong and unique passwords for each account. However, since the average person has 70-80 accounts, it's hard to remember them all, and many people reuse passwords. Installing a password manager (Opens in a new tab) can help you generate and store passwords for all your accounts on your devices. While using common passwords like QWERTY or your dog's name won't make you secure, it may suggest an almost impossible-to-guess alternative.
The biggest advantage of this should be that there is no magic wand to provide complete protection when it comes to avoiding identity theft. The best thing consumers can do is stay alert and err on the side of caution. Adopting the layers of security outlined in the list above will give people the highest level of protection against a threat that will become increasingly destructive in the future.