If you’re most of the United States, you probably had a scare a few days ago that left you wondering how you can protect yourself in a time with so many hackers and leaked information. There are a lot of expensive options to remedy this problem, but there are also a lot of cheap options too. You don’t have to feel pressured into signing up for pricey services just to put your mind at ease though. These ten options should help you feel more satisfied with your personal security, so you can sweat a little less over the Equifax breach or anything else that comes along. With any luck, you’ll feel more empowered over your information.
1. Keep Track of Spending
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself when there is a breach, or even when there is not, is to keep track of the money you spend. Knowing what you are putting out into the world will help you know if someone has been spending your hard-earned money. You may only notice a small charge at first, as some people love to test the waters before spending other’s money. If you let this slip then it could escalate to huge charges. So, monitor your spending carefully and contact your bank if you see anything fishy on your account. Most banks will allow you to put in a dispute, so you can get your money back and put an end to the fraudulent charges. You may even help them find the person who is stealing from others.
2. Bank Protection
Your bank can be a huge asset when it comes to protecting you from people who want to steal your money and your identity. If you have a debit card or a credit card through your bank then make sure you know their policies for fraudulent charges. Most banks offer this as a free service and will even launch an investigation when something goes wrong. Other banks will still offer the service at a reasonable price. Your bank can also offer a wide variety of other services. For instance, if they feel like you aren’t the person spending your money, then they can instantly freeze your card to help stop a criminal in their tracks. This will prevent you from the hassle of putting in claims to have your money returned. It will also immediately provide you with a different card, so you can carry on using your money. This will force the old card to pop up as stolen, which will help lead officials to the person of interest. Many banks offer even more services, so make sure to ask to see what you qualify for.
3. Credit Monitoring
These days, most people subscribe to some form of credit monitoring, which can be a huge asset when it comes to monitoring your personal information. Some websites will charge you to keep track of your credit, but there are many websites that will do it for nothing. It is important to do some research on these websites though, before you put in your social security number. Monitoring your credit can be the first defense when it comes to stolen information. Your credit will take a hit if any new credit cards are opened as well as any other line of credit. You will also be able to find out if you are defaulting on lines of credit that you might not know about. This will help you take further steps to build you credit back up and stop those who are using your information.
4. Minimize Credit Card Use
Credit cards are the perfect asset when an emergency arises. However, you don’t need to have them on you at all times. Carrying around all of your credit cards makes it physically possible for thieves to take off with your information in a hurry. If you lose your wallet or if a pick pocket takes off with it, then you will probably have hours before you realize your cards are compromised. A lot of damage can be done in this time. By leaving the cards at home, you won’t put yourself at risk. If you do need a credit card then only take one with you to eliminate the number of cards you have to deal with. The same can be said when it comes to online shopping. Don’t save your cards on websites as all a thief needs to do is hack your account to get access to your numbers and to easily go on a shopping spree.
5. Freeze Credit
The moment that you feel your card has been compromised, it is important to hop on the phone and freeze your account. This will stop anyone from making any charges that aren’t authorized by you. Freezing your card is the best thing to do if your card goes missing or you feel someone may have your card numbers. This is especially important with so many phone scams that can trick you into believing your giving your number to a trusted source. By freezing your card, you’re saving your credit and working towards preventing identity theft. Most banks and companies won’t charge you to free your card, so make sure you do it as soon as possible if you feel you need to.
6. Ditch the Signature
One of the best things you can do is not sign the back of your credit and debit cards. Places of business are not supposed to process your card without seeing a form of signature. So, by leaving it blank you are forcing them to double check the card before they put through the transaction. You can also write SEE ID on the signature panel, so you know you’re being checked for ID every time you use your card. Although this may be inconvenient, it can stop a thief in their tracks. It will also prevent your signature from being stolen by thieves who may use it to try to sign other things in order to use more of your credit line.
7. Shred Documents
Although cyber crime is one of the biggest stressors when it comes to theft, there are still old fashioned thieves who aren’t afraid to go through your trash. So, it is important that you shred the documents you throw in the trash or recycle. A shredder doesn’t cost a lot of money and can save you thousands in the long run. It is important to shred any document that has financial information on it, particularly when it comes to your bank account or credit card account numbers. You shouldn’t take any chances with letting people learn your name and address too. Luckily, shredding only takes a few seconds to do and will secure your personal information every time you empty the shredding bin.
8. Password Everything
If you haven’t already, make sure you add a password to anything that can possibly have one. Everything from your phone, computer to accounts on websites should be clad with a password that will leave even your closest friends and family stumped. These days, passwords need to be created with a mixture of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. You should change your password frequently and never leave it written down somewhere where someone can find it. You should also never save your passwords in word documents on your computer or phone. Try not to save passwords on websites either as this can give people access to your accounts if they enter your phone or computer.
9. Be Inquisitive
You can’t simply trust a phone call or email anymore, especially when someone is inquiring about your personal information. You should always be inquisitive with anyone who is trying to assist you with an account. For starters, you should never get a phone call or email asking for your full social security number. If the person on the line does this immediately hang up the phone. If someone is curious about your account details then ask if you can call them back on their extension. If they do not allow you to then hang up. If they do give you a number, run it through a search engine and check it out on the company’s official website. If the number pops up as a scam or doesn’t match with the company’s number then don’t give them the time of day. Calls made to you are especially dangerous, so don’t be caught off guard if someone calls you with bad news about your account. Simply make sure to ask questions and be alert. The same can be said of emails. Companies should never ask for personal information via an email. You will also never see an email from an official company with a link in it. Most companies now have advanced emails, which offer html coding to ensure you can get the information you need. You can always double check an email address to make sure it is coming from the correct company.
10. Know Rights
With the recent Equifax breach, you may be wondering what your actual rights are when something like this happens. Most people quickly sign up for anything the company tells them to in order to help safeguard their information. This can be a huge problem though as these companies are often trying to keep themselves out of as much trouble as possible. For instance, the recent breach led people to sign up for monitoring which takes the company off of the hook. So, before you sign up for anything designed to help you with identity and credit, make sure you completely read and understand the Terms of Service.
Keeping yourself safe in a digital world can be tough. These ten tips should give you a jump start on monitoring your credit and identity just in case someone has access to your information. With any luck, you’ll never have to deal with a problem, but if you do these steps should help you be prepared.