VirtualThreat Guest Writer
Protecting your identity is important. Once your identity is stolen, it can be difficult to restore. After theft, you may find that you have multiple credit cards and loans under your name, property that you do not own or other financial obligations that you simply did not make. When you want to protect yourself from identity thieves, here are five tips that you can use whenever you access your important financial and personal accounts.
Keep Your Information Private
Most people understand that in order to not be vulnerable to thieves, you must keep all of your information private. Information that you should never share with anyone includes your social security number, account numbers, passwords, mother’s maiden name or any answer to any security question you have set up with your accounts.
When you are working with a financial account online, you may from time to time get an email asking for your password or other sensitive information. This should be a red flag. Financial institutions will never ask for this information in an email or over the phone. If you are concerned about your account in any way, go in person or call them back at the number you have for the institution to see if there are any problems.
Regularly Change Passwords
Changing your password is common advice for anyone who has an account online, whether it contains sensitive information or not. Also knowing what a good password is will help you maintain your safety online. A password should be comprised of letter and numbers with at least one capital letter. Do not choose anything that is easy to guess. It is also important to change your password about every six months to maintain security. Some financial institutions require this password change and will prompt you to change it when it is time.
Monitor Your Financial Activity
One of the easiest ways to let identity theft get out of hand is not knowing where to look to see your financial activity. You are allowed up to three credit reports each year for free from one of each of the major credit reporting agencies. Looking at these free reports every quarter will help you spot any unauthorized activity. If you want to pay a little money, you can also have credit monitoring alerts set up to notify you of any new financial activity on your report.
Do Not Open Attachments
Emails from unknown sources can be dangerous. Some of these emails can contain malware that can infect your computer as soon as you open it. This malware can track your online activity, collecting account information or passwords that you use for important accounts. If the email has an attachment, never open it unless you know the sender and are expecting the file. Even when you know where the file came from, it is a good idea to configure your computer so that the file extension of the attachment is visible. This will ensure that you are getting the file you expected.
Quickly Report Any Incident
If you have found something that looks like it might be identity theft, make sure to report the incident as soon as possible. Report it to the government or financial institution that it affects. You may also be able to report it to your local police, but some identity thieves can move in and move out of your accounts without ever being caught.
When you have been a victim, it is important to take all the steps necessary to correct the situation. There are resources for victims available to help reestablish your good name.
Mark Walker is a medical transcriptionist and guest author at Health Information Management, where you can read his latest article on health information management degree programs.