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10 Ways to Help Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity Theft
Identity Theft

No one wants to be a victim of identity theft (at least not that I’m aware of). But even though we may say this, our actions don’t always indicate this—and actions speak louder than words.

Some of this information may seem basic or like common sense, but these are still tactics that identity thieves utilize because THEY WORK! So here are some tips to make sure you’re protecting your identity:

  1. Be careful when sharing personal information – Make sure you question who is asking for this information and why. Just because a site asks or even your doctor’s office form asks, doesn’t mean it’s absolutely necessary. Also make sure you understand how they are protecting your personal data.
  2. Don’t open attachments or clicks on links from people you don’t know – Whether this be via email, text message or social networking sites, exercise caution as these could bephishing messages designed to steal your personal information.
  3. Protect your home Wi-Fi connection – Not changing the default settings on your wireless router can lead to not only someone using your connection for free, but also to them accessing all the files on the devices that are connected to it. Using default settings is never a good idea for anything, but can have bigger implications with your Wi-Fi connection. Here’s tips on how to protect your Wi-Fi.
  4. Don’t shop or bank online from public computers – You don’t know if there is any security protection on these computers and if the Internet connection is secure. It’s just best not to do this.
  5. Don’t fall for 419 email scams – These are emails asking you help to get access to a big sum of money and in exchange you’ll get a portion of the money. Now come on…if a stranger asked you this in real life, would you believe them? Probably not…I mean…how many us really need to help a Nigerian prince? (Note: 419 refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud)
  6. Don’t accept all friend requests on social media – Remember that “friend” may not really be your friend. Only connect with people you know in the real world. And even then you should be careful when clicking on the links they post. I’d recommend you use a product like McAfee® SiteAdvisor® that provides easy, red, yellow and green site rating icons in your search results and in your Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ feeds (for PC or Mac). It will also put up a warning screen if you click on a site we know to be dangerous (for PC, Mac or mobile)
  7. Carry as little possible with you – This includes credit cards, debit cards, your Social Security number or Identification card and scraps of paper with your PINs and passwords. You wallet or purse can be a treasure trove to thieves, so make sure to carry only what is absolutely necessary.
  8. Lock your mailbox – This may seem extreme, but many thieves raid mailboxes for credit card applications, fill then out and change the address, then they don’t pay the bill, and the debt collector comes looking for you! So ask the companies to stop sending you this mail and make sure your mailbox is locked
  9. Be careful what you put in your trash – Some thieves raid trash cans, especially if you have a locked mailbox. So that pre-approved credit card application that you relegated to the trash before it even entered your house is a gold mine for thieves. So make sure you employ the use of a cross-cut paper shredder before you throw these types of things away.
  10. And of course, make sure you have protection on all your devices – Comprehensive security on all your devices (not just your PCs) is a must these days. I use McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects all my PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. And it comes with McAfee SiteAdvisor that I mentioned above!

So remember, we all have to help ourselves by being proactive to protect our identities, both online and offline.

Stay safe!

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.