Understanding the Basics of Identity Theft

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The U.S. Department of Justice defines identity theft as a criminal offense that involves someone wrongfully obtaining and using someone else’s data for monetary gain through fraudulent and deceptive means. Criminals typically steal data through ways such as shoulder surfing, retrieving discarded documents, and phishing. In 2020 alone, Americans lost about $56 billion to identity fraud. Usually, criminals target personal and financial data, including credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers, dates of birth, and even biometric data. To avoid falling victim to identity theft, you need to ensure your personal and financial data is always safe. Here’s some more information on this topic.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Any time you provide your personal information when shopping online, signing up for online programs, or even updating your social media profile, you’ll be putting your data in some level of jeopardy. While it’s difficult to ensure the safety of your information, you can significantly minimize the chances of identity theft.

1. Avoid oversharing

Unless you must, avoid giving too much information to entities. For instance, if the last few digits of your Social Security Number are enough to get the job done, you don’t have to give out the rest of it. Additionally, avoid posting personal information such as your address, date of birth, phone number, or license plates on social media.

2. Secure Your Digital Services

If you have devices such as computers and phones, ensure you restrict access by using strong passwords. Also, you should update your passwords regularly to keep the devices secure. Another tip is to only log into your devices on secure networks and avoid using public Wi-Fi.

3. Keep Track of Your Transaction

Cybercriminals can steal money from your bank account with identify theft. Therefore, you should always keep track of your transactions to be fully aware of how your bank account is operating. This way, you’ll be able to place a fraud alert as soon as you notice any suspicious transactions.

4. Watch out for Potential Identity Thieves

As mentioned earlier, shoulder surfing is one of the ways that criminals steal people’s identities. Therefore, watch out for those around you when using your credit cards and handling personal documents. Take note that identity thieves could also be the people you trust.

5. Dispose of Confidential Documents safely

Items such as receipts, bills, and letters may contain some of your personal data. If you no longer need them, ensure you dispose of them safely; for instance, instead of just throwing them in the trashcan, shred them first.

6. File a Police Report

Regardless of the preventive measures you take, your confidential data can still end up in the wrong hands. In case this happens, follow these steps to prevent further damage:

  • File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Use the FTC’s affidavit to file a police report.
  • Inform your bank and other financial services providers about the incident, and request new account numbers, if necessary.
  • Contact the credit bureau asking them to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

To protect yourself from identity theft, use the tips discussed in this article. Another way to protect your digital data is by purchasing the right cybersecurity insurance. At Hoffman Brown Company, we are constantly looking for ways to help our clients stay safe from a broad range of perils, including identity theft. Contact us today to learn more about protecting yourself with personal cybersecurity insurance.