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Jane bought a gift for her friend online. A week later that website was hacked, and her personal data was stolen. Random charges started appearing on her credit cards, and her bank account dwindled down to nothing. She was struggling to pay her bills, and it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know what to do, how to get her money back or how to make it stop.
Too many people find themselves in a situation like this. Fortunately, we can help you protect your identity and monitor it with our tips. It’s only a matter of time until this happens to you.
In 2017, identity theft occurred once every 2 seconds. That’s a frightening statistic, and that’s just the beginning of them. We’ve got many more ID theft statistics that not only will scare you but also prove that none of us are exempt from becoming a victim.
Identity theft has become personal for many of us who work for Safe Smart Living. You can read real ID theft examples from our readers (and us!).
While credit card fraud can be a result of identity theft, the two terms are quite different. Credit card fraud involves the use of your existing credit card or debit card numbers and accounts to make fraudulent purchases or obtain money. Thieves can steal your numbers from unsecured websites or via an ID theft scheme.
While a huge hassle, credit card fraud is much easier to stop and recover from than identity theft. Most credit card companies have a liability limit of $50. This means that if your card or number is stolen, you’ll only have to pay $50, and the credit card company will wipe out any charges resulting from this theft.
In contrast, identity theft is much broader in scope — and can be much more damaging. Identity thieves can steal your personal information to open a new credit card in your name or a line of credit at a bank (and even get a false ID in your name). Unlike credit card fraud, there’s no liability limit so you could end up having to pay for all the new credit fraudulently opened and charged in your name.
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Investing in ID theft protection is one of the best things you can do to protect your identity from a thief. Identity theft protection monitors your personal information online and notifies you of any suspicious activity. This can include your Social Security number, bank account information, credit cards, loan details, insurance, driver’s license and more.
There are many companies to turn to for this service, but not all are created equal. We’ve compared the top companies and chosen the best ID theft protection service based on items monitored, price, restoration services, reputation, family/child coverage (children can be identity theft victims) and mobile access.
Another step to monitoring the safety of your identity is to check your credit report and score regularly. A credit report has information about your credit activity and current standing.
A credit score is a number based on the information in your report — the higher your credit score, the better. Lenders use this number to decide if they want to work with you.
If you see that your credit score has suddenly taken a hit, but you have a good credit history, there may be cause for concern. Someone may have opened a line (or two, or more) of credit in your name. At least you caught it, thanks to your credit score monitoring, so you can get it fixed sooner rather than later. People who don’t monitor their credit report and score can go months (or even years) without realizing someone stole their identity.
You have many options to monitor your credit. Many of the identity theft protection companies include credit monitoring in their top-tier packages. You can also purchase it separately through one of the companies listed in our best credit monitoring service comparison.
There are other ways to protect your identity that don’t necessarily cost money.
Did you know you should be using a virtual private network (VPN) every time you connect to public WiFi? Consider this the next time you use your favorite coffee shop’s internet. We have an entire section on VPN where we discuss the top providers, step-by-step setup instructions, practical tips on public WiFi security and more.
Ever heard of RFID (radio frequency identification) wallets? RFID wallets block criminals from reading your card’s RFID chip with an RFID reader. All they have to do is come within inches of you, and then they’re all set to go shopping or sell your information.
RFID theft is possibly one of the scariest ways to have your identity stolen. Just think about all the people you pass on your way to work, going grocery shopping, etc. You may want to consider getting an RFID wallet, but first, find out if RFID wallets really work and read our reviews of the best RFID wallets. Speaking of wallets, here are the steps you should take if you lose yours.
Spoof calls blowing up your phone is frustrating. You answer the phone, only to find out it’s some scam artist trying to take your personal information or money. We’ve got an article dedicated to how to stop spoofing calls.
Other Tips & Tricks
Our cybercrime prevention guide explains why you shouldn’t pay for your gas at the pump and why you should sign up for 2FA, or two-factor authentication. 2FA adds an additional identity check to confirm it’s you, such as sending you a text on your cell phone.
Speaking of two-factor authentication, could passwords become obsolete? Logging into our accounts tomorrow could mean scanning your fingerprint or iris instead of entering a password. Protecting this information (known as zero knowledge proof) is much easier than protecting a 12-digit password.
Also be aware of social media identity theft, where fake profiles are created to scam others.
With each smart home gadget you purchase, it means there’s one more opportunity for a hacker to weasel their way into your home. Fortunately, there’s a way for you to protect your smart home gadgets through the use of a smart home firewall.
Smart home firewalls protect your devices against hackers, malware and viruses. If you’re a smart home fanatic, your privacy is at risk. That’s why we recommend you read about the best smart firewall.
As an added precaution, you can sign-up for identity theft insurance, which will reimburse you for the cost of restoring your identity after it’s stolen. This includes lost wages, phone bills, notary and certified mailing costs and attorney fees. We discuss this further and some companies to choose from in our ID theft insurance article.
Note: Before signing up for ID theft insurance, you should check with your identity theft protection service (if you have one) to see what its restoration services entail. Many monitoring services offer restoration services, so insurance may not be needed.
Unfortunately, there are security breaches happening regularly with major retailers, credit card companies and other organizations. We’ve compiled a summary of recent major data breaches so you can stay up to date, including how you might be affected and what you can do about it.
What’s stopping you from protecting your identity?
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