How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Personally identifiable information such as your name, address, Social Security number, and passwords are a gold mine for cyber thieves. With this information, hackers can drain your accounts, wreck your credit, mess up your medical records, and even make it tougher for you to get a job. If you are not taking active steps to protect yourself from identity theft, now is the time to start. Many of these steps can also be translated to your business, helping to keep your corporate information more secure. Here are a few tips.

Strong Passwords

Strong passwords with special characters and difficult to guess codes are an excellent first line of protection against identity theft. Back them up with two-factor authentication and change your passwords frequently. Never use simple codes such as “1234” or “password,” and avoid things that may be common knowledge such as your pet’s name. Always use two factor authentication (2FA) whenever available. Two factor authentication provides an extra layer of security that usually includes a text of a five-digit number to your phone that is used in conjunction with your user name and password. 

Limit Online Sharing

The more information you put out online, the easier it is for criminals to figure out the answers to your security questions, confirm your identity, and guess your passwords. Try not to share your address, birthdate, phone number, or other specifics on social media sites. When setting up your security questions, consider making up answers or adding some numbers to the end of your answer to prevent others from figuring them out.

Watch Out for Phishing

A common way for identity thieves to access your personal information is through “phishing,” in which they pretend to be co-workers, friends, family, bank representatives, or affiliated with other organizations that would have legitimate access to your details. Never answer “identifying” questions from anyone who calls or emails you. If you have any doubt about a caller’s or emailer’s legitimacy, go directly to the organization’s website (do not click any email links) or you should look up and call the online official published phone number yourself.

Shred Documents

Thieves can easily find your personal information in the trash. Be sure to shred all financial documents and non-junk mail before throwing them away. If you don’t have a shredder, many office supply stores offer shredding services for a small fee.

Use Alerts

Set up alerts with your bank and credit card companies to make you aware of transactions that hit your accounts. If any charges come through that you don’t recognize, call your financial institution right away to go over the details and cancel your card if needed.

Also sign up for credit monitoring through one of the “big 3” credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion). This allows you to keep an eye on your credit score, and to learn immediately when a credit application is placed in your name.

How Do I Know if My Identity Has Been Stolen?

If you have alerts set up with the credit bureaus and your financial institutions, you will know almost immediately if someone is using your identity to steal money from you or to obtain credit in your name. If not, then you might notice the theft when you see a major drop in your credit score or even receive a debt collection call on a bill that is not yours.

Coping with Identity Theft

Should you learn that your identity has been stolen, it is important to take action right away. Call your financial institutions and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account. Go online and change your logins and passwords. If a new credit account was opened, ask the business to close it, remove it from your credit reports, and send you a letter verifying that it was not yours.

If you are worried about your credit reports, contact the three credit bureaus to correct any erroneous information and request a fraud alert. You may also consider reporting the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at and filling out a local police report. If you believe your Social Security number was stolen, contact the Social Security Administration for instructions.

Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft has become a major problem. Criminals are not above stealing kids’ personal information to rack up debts. To protect your children, keep an eye out for red flags such as debt collection notices or credit card offers addressed to them. Shortly before your child’s 16th birthday, check his or her credit with the three credit bureaus. This gives you time to correct errors and deal with any fraud before your child starts working or applying for college loans, apartment leases, or car loans.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to protect your employees and your business from identity theft and other data breaches, contact CIFSA today at (561) 325-6050 to learn how we can help.

Founded by former Secret Service Agent and Deputy Director of the National Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Levin, The Center for Information Security Awareness (CFISA) is designed to help businesses, government agencies, and academic institutions empower their employees to fight cybercrimes. We provide personalized, engaging, compliant, and affordable training in PCI-DSS, HIPAA, InfraGard Awareness, and Cyber Security Awareness.

Remember, no matter how big or small your company is, and how well the back doors to your system are barricaded, one employee click on the wrong link, attachment, or website could open the front door. CIFSA trains your employees on the best practices to avoid potentially catastrophic data breaches. Call us today at (561) 325-6050 to learn how we can help.