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5 of the Most Common Mistakes That Lead to Identity Theft

All Security Reviews Staff · May 4, 2017

5 of the Most Common Mistakes That Lead to Identity Theft

Anyone can become a victim of identity theft. 7 out of every 100 Americans over the age of 16 have their identity stolen at least once each year; this number’s consistency throughout recent years suggests that everyone should take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. However, there are numerous ways to protect yourself from identity theft, and it can be difficult to know which methods to prioritize. Here’s a guide to some of the most common mistakes that can lead to identity theft, along with some tips for how to avoid them.

Leaving Your Mail Unguarded

Thieves comb through neighborhood mailboxes searching for mail with personal or financial information, especially pre-filled credit card and tax-related documents. Leaving your mail vulnerable is one of the most frequent ways people fall victim to identity theft. To prevent this, avoid leaving your mail in your mailbox unprotected for prolonged periods of time. The best practice is to know when your mail carrier arrives and then pick up your mail promptly at that time; or you can arrange for someone you trust to do it for you. Using a P.O. Box, telling the post office to hold your mail while you’re on vacation and notifying the post office and everyone you do business with of a change in address are all ways to help keep your mail secure. When sending outgoing mail, drop it off at the slot inside the post office or hand it directly to a mail carrier. If you don’t receive important mail you’re expecting, check with the person who was supposed to send it to verify when it went out. If you suspect it’s missing or stolen, contact the police or the U.S. Postal Inspector.

Throwing Sensitive Documents into Your Trash

Identity thieves also target trashcans and dumpsters looking for sensitive information. To prevent this, don’t simply throw important information in the trash. Shred your documents, preferably using a crosscut shredder. As an extra precaution, you can take your shredded documents to a paper recycling center, reducing the risk of thieves re-assembling shredded files.

Losing Your Wallet or Smartphone

Another way to lose your identity is to lose your wallet or smartphone. To secure these items, avoid keeping Social Security cards, birth certificates or cheat sheets with sensitive information such as bank account numbers or passwords in your wallet. Observe who’s around you when using your wallet. Avoid leaving your smartphone unattended. Activate your phone’s screen lock and secure it with fingerprint identification, a password or a PIN number. For sensitive information, use data encryption. Also, install a remote data disabling or data wiping app so that you can stay in control of your data even if you lose your phone.

Falling for Cyberscams

Another way to have your identity stolen is to fall for a cyberscam, such as phishing or spoofing. Responding to a phony email, opening an attachment with a malicious code or clicking on a phony link are all ways to fall victim to cyberattacks. To guard yourself on the internet, install a good antivirus program and make sure to install the latest updates for your security software and web browser. Set up spam filters for your email. Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments or click on links that you’re unsure of. If you receive an email purporting to be from your bank or credit card company that looks suspicious, look up the institution’s actual contact information and contact them directly to confirm that the email is authentic before you click on or respond to anything.

Using an Insecure Internet Connection

Cyberthieves also steal information transmitted over unsecured Internet connections. Public Wi-Fi hotspots in places like restaurants, airports and hotels are a preferred target. You can secure your connection by using a virtual private network (VPN) connection to encrypt your data transmissions. Set your router or wireless access point to avoid broadcasting your network name, and password protect router access. Use a firewall. Don’t click on transmit sensitive information through unsecured websites without an https URL prefix. For added security, you can turn off network sharing options.

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All Security Reviews Staff

Our team at All Security Reviews (ASR) has extensive experience in the personal security industry. At ASR we bring this experience and expertise to you by reviewing security providers and grading each company through our proprietary Identity Protection Rating System.