It seems like every few weeks we hear about another data breach on the news. We’ve also heard plenty of horror stories about what it’s like to try to fix all the problems that can result in the wrong people getting their hands on your personal information. We’ve put together a list of tools to prevent identity theft that will help protect you and your loved ones.
Everyone is entitled to a copy of your full credit report from each of the three major agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You don’t have to receive all of them at once; you can choose to spread them out over the entire year. You will have to use the site annualcreditreport.com to utilize the free copy guaranteed by the FCRA.
If you just want a ballpark of where your credit is, use myfico.com. If you don’t mind email alerts and other financial offers, you can also consider creditkarma.com, creditsesame, and others to monitor your scores. Just keep in mind the score you receive from free credit score services is not based on the official FICO scoring model, but based on models developed by the credit reporting agencies.
Pre-approved credit card offers are a gold mine for identity thieves. Make sure to opt out of pre-approved credit offers by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com.
The best first line of protection from identity theft on a computer is anti-virus and anti-malware software. Most companies have a trial period or free edition with limited features. This way you can try them out and decide which program or company works best for and with you.
Another identity theft tool is password managing programs. Storing such passwords in an encrypted database or calculating them on demand, a password manager assists in generating and retrieving complex passwords.
With a password manager, you no longer need to remember a unique, long, complex password for each one of your online accounts. Strengthening your security and minimizing your risk the next time there’s a massive data breach, the password manager will remember each password for you. The only password you’ll need to remember is your “master” password you use for the password manager program.
Password managers should secure your data, both on your machine and in the cloud, with the toughest form of encryption in use. They should have software for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. They usually can be installed on an unlimited number of devices for one account, store an unlimited number of passwords, and can generate new, strong passwords for you. Some even offer alerts regarding the latest data breaches. Most offer a two-factor authentication option for master passwords.
Daily online browsing isn’t safe from identity theft. So how do you go about securing that? With a virtual private network (VPN). The key to a VPN is that it lends you a temporary IP address and hides your true IP address from every website or email you connect with, so it’s unreadable by anyone trying to hack in. A VPN-enabled browser prevents somebody from watching your Internet connection and learning what sites you visit. It also prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.
When you want to use it, you must remember to manually reconnect to the VPN. It’s not always running after you’ve completed set up. You can put the VPN in your menu bar on your computer to make this process simple. There are many available and usually cost $40 – 50 a year.
Social media encompasses a significant portion of social and business life. Hackers know this is an excellent source for personal information and our contacts, which makes identity theft that much easier for them. Here are our tips to stay safe on social media:
- Check if you have been compromised already.
- Enable multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication forces anyone logging into an account to supply a code sent to an external device or use other third party software.
- Avoid password reuse at all cost.
- Use a password manager.
- Update your security settings on all digital and social channel regularly.
- Clear up and out your connections. The more connections you have, there’s far more potential for a fraudulent or compromised account to send you a malicious link.
Remain vigilant for phishing links, fraudulent accounts, scams, and more. Invest in digital risk monitoring that will do this automatically and help you identify and remove malicious content.