You've probably heard a lot about how you should protect your identity from thieves and scammers. After all, cybercriminals can commit identity fraud with minimal information about you. But what can you do to prevent identity theft?
Start by making sure you use these tools and services to protect your identity from theft.
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1. Protection and surveillance against identity theft
Let's start with the most obvious solution: identity theft protection. What is it, where to find it and how much does it cost?
In most cases, identity theft protection is a built-in feature of bank accounts and credit cards. Providers will monitor your account for suspicious activity and contact you with unusual charges.
You can also take the time to monitor bank and credit card statements, on paper or online, to make sure everything is okay. Some companies provide easy access to your credit bureau to verify any new credit applications in your name.
SMS alerts are a cool feature that banks and credit card companies have introduced. These can be set up to instantly notify you if your account is overdrawn or a spending maximum has been exceeded.
With all of this in mind, you should avoid identity fraud insurance. All of this only mitigates the expense of resolving the consequences of identity fraud: it does not reimburse your bank account or credit card. But as long as your identity theft wasn't caused by personal negligence, your bank will cover the cost of the fraud.
2. Secure authentication
Your identity can be stolen from a laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone, or even a smart watch.
The solution? Make sure to set up secure authentication. This can range from a password or PIN to thumb or fingerprint recognition. It depends on your device and its limitations, but always choose the most secure option.
However, avoid unlocking shapes and gestures on phones and tablets. Finger oil can make the unlock gesture thinner, making it the least secure option.
In addition to securing the way you access your devices, take the time to implement two-factor authentication where it's available. When enabled, this prevents unauthorized access to your account by requiring more than just your password. It can be a one-time access code from a mobile app or a one-time link sent via email.
With its secure login authentication, your ID has a better chance of staying out of the hands of hackers.
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3. A VPN
Although they are mistakenly considered as a privacy and security solution for almost everything, there is one thing that VPNs do well: they encrypt your data. If you regularly use public Wi-Fi, this is essential to avoid observation by password sniffers. Hackers use them to collect usernames, passwords, and other data transmitted from unencrypted connections.
Encryption prevents a password sniffer from collecting usable data.
So make sure to use a VPN on any device you might be using on a vulnerable network. This probably refers to your laptop, smartphone, and tablet.
If you're not already using a VPN, now is the time to get started. Most VPNs support multiple devices and a monthly subscription of less than €10.
- Check out our full list of the best VPN services
4. Antivirus and online security software
Every computer and mobile device you use should have antivirus software installed. Although Windows may come with built-in antivirus and malware software (Windows Defender), mobile devices are less secure.
At its best, online security software can detect dubious websites and phishing links and clean malware from your PC or smartphone. So what is the risk to your identity?
Well, a critical risk is emails claiming to be from a trusted bank that are scammers trying to trick you into logging into a spoofed website. It's a one way trip to identity theft.
Likewise, you risk malware installing keyloggers on your system. These tools log keystrokes as you type, logging usernames and passwords that hackers can use to gain access to your accounts. All they have to do is choose an account that has their details and their ID is theirs to steal.
(Image credit: Scyther5/Shutterstock)
5. A password manager
It's hard to remember multiple passwords, but you should have different passwords for each account. Many account breaches happen because the same password is used for email as, say, Facebook or PayPal.
Stopping this behavior will greatly improve your security, reducing the risk of identity theft. The way to remember all your passwords and keep them safe is to remember just one. Storing your passwords in a password manager is the answer. Can't find a password? Don't worry: password managers have strong password generators.
With a password manager, a master password is used to provide access to the vault. This can be secondary to a thumb or fingerprint, depending on your device.
There are several password managers available. LastPass is reliable (see our LastPass review (opens in a new tab)) and it's also free. Also consider 1Password (opens in a new tab) and Keeper (opens in a new tab). However, avoid Chrome browser's built-in password manager as it is not considered secure.
Don't forget education, awareness and vigilance.
By using these tools, you have a good chance of avoiding identity theft. While nothing can prevent your accounts from being stolen due to a corporate data breach, you've gone to great lengths to keep things safe.
Where have you? Well, in terms of software and services, yes. But you can always do more. Start by becoming more aware of cybersecurity issues, just as you would of crime in the neighborhood. After all, we are all members of the digital neighborhood. Be aware of new risks and always double-check what you're doing, especially when considering following a link in an email or text that claims to be from your bank.
Cybercriminals will attack from any angle, using any means. Prepare for them.