Identity theft and fraud have lately become some of the most common crimes in the US. In 2018, more than 60 million Americans reported that they had been the victim of identity theft. Considering it’s such a large problem, it makes sense to take action to protect yourself. Despite how common it is, many people are still unaware of the best ways to prevent identity theft and how to keep you and your family safe.
Protecting yourself against identity theft starts with understanding what it is and why it occurs. In this guide, we’ll be explaining identity theft and how to prevent it. We’ll also explain why it’s so common and how your data can end up online. It’s surprising how much you can find about yourself on a simple background check. Try out https://checkpeople.com/ to see just how many of your details are already available online.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft or identity fraud is any crime involving unlawful access of personal data. Typically, criminals and cyber thieves will access your personal details and use them to commit financial fraud. Once a criminal has enough details about you, they can open bank accounts and credit cards and use them to rack up debt. All of the debt ends up under your name, which can be devastating to your financial situation and credit score.
How Do Criminals Access Your Personal Data?
A lot of your details are accessible using a simple internet search. Often, you’ll unintentionally provide criminals with your data through the use of social media and other websites. Whenever you post your details and contact information online, anyone can access it. Criminals can expose more personal information by cracking your passwords. This is commonly used to access email accounts. Once a criminal has access to all of these details, they can effectively steal your identity and use it to make a profit.
Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Details
While identity theft is common, there are lots of ways you can prevent criminals from accessing your data. Follow these steps to stay safe online and avoid identity fraud:
Use Strong Passwords
This is one of the most important steps you can take to securing your data. Keeping your information away from criminals means you’ll need to use strong passwords for all of your logins and online accounts. Make sure not to use the same password for different sites. If one becomes compromised, a hacker could gain access to all of your accounts. If you have trouble remembering your strong passwords, you can use a password manager, which will keep track of all of them for you.
Be Wary of Public WiFi
Public WiFi networks have become massively popular in recent years, and you’ll find that most cafes and restaurants now offer free WiFi. Be wary about signing in to one of these networks as you never know who is behind it. Hackers could run a public WiFi network and use it to access people’s laptops or mobile phones. If you do use public WiFi, make sure you have your connection settings to public network. This way, downloads won’t happen automatically, and you should be able to avoid criminals accessing your device.
Keep Your Antivirus Software Up to Date
Your antivirus software is the barrier preventing criminals and malicious software from entering your device. You should make sure that your PC, laptop, phone and other devices all have an up-to-date antivirus subscription. This way, you can avoid malware that will steal your data. Viruses are often programmed to steal or destroy data on machines, allowing criminals to profit. A lot of people don’t realize the importance of antivirus and think that just having it on their PC is enough. You should extra careful when protecting your phone, as this is more likely to use public WiFi connections. On top of this, try to avoid visiting sites that may be insecure and only download links from people and sites you can trust.
Encrypt Your Personal Files and Data
You should always keep personal files should safe. Particularly if they contain sensitive information. If you want to make sure that they’re for your eyes only, set up encryption. You can encrypt files, which means only someone with the correct password can view them. That way, even if a criminal does gain access to your device, they still won’t have access to your important data. If you’re unsure how to set up encryption for your computer and its files, there are plenty of guides available that explain the process.
Use an Authentication App for Important Websites
Authenticator apps allow you to essentially add a second layer of security to your accounts. Once you’ve got the authenticator set up, you’ll get a message on your phone anytime you or anyone else tries to access your account. You’ll usually need to enter a code which the phone will give you. This locks your account to anyone who doesn’t have access to your phone. You can add multiple accounts to your authenticator app, and this helps keep lots of your accounts secure. Authenticators are especially useful for accounts that deal with finances. Most banking apps now use some form of authentication.
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