Let’s start with the basics - what is identity theft? It’s when someone’s personal identifying information (credit/debit cards, social security number, name, birth date, etc.) is used by someone else to commit fraud or illegal activity.
Once you’ve experienced identity theft, it can be a lot harder to reverse or repair the effects so understanding how you can best avoid it NOW will hopefully save you a lot of heartache later.
Diversify your passwords
As convenient as it might feel to use the same password for everything, it can make it all too easy for scammers to steal more than one element of your personal information. When developing your passwords, avoid using identifiers like your name or birthday. You also want to change your passwords frequently, every 60-90 days or so.
Be very protective of your social security number.
An easy way to protect your identity is to avoid putting your social security card in your wallet. Now, this one’s worth repeating again. DO NOT KEEP YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD IN YOUR WALLET! If your wallet or purse ever gets stolen, you would be at a much higher risk of identity theft because your social security number holds such a high value. This also means only sharing that number when it is absolutely necessary, and if someone is asking for it always ask them why they need it.
Avoid saving your credit card information on your browser
You’ll want to avoid doing this especially if you’re using a non-password-protected device. There are ways you can encrypt this information, but best practice is to avoid saving your valuable information on your browsers.
Be wary of phone and email scams
Be cautious of anyone who contacts you by phone, text or email asking for credit card or private info. If you want to check validity, you can always look up the offer or info through your own search online.
When you get an offer or deal, ask yourself if you’ve heard of something like this happening to anyone else you know. If not, it could be too good to be true. You can read more about how to avoid scams here.
Check your mail regularly, especially if it is not in a secure area like a lockbox.
Sometimes people can grab credit card offers you receive from your mailbox and apply for them using your information. Though it sounds unrealistic, we’ve seen this happen too many times to not say something. Also, remember to shred your mail when you’re done with it.
Monitor your credit reports
You can access a rough estimate of your credit scores through apps like credit karma and credit sesame FOR FREE. Using these apps won’t hurt your credit, and can help you monitor your credit history. Keep in mind, these tools give you an “educational score” not your actual score.
You can get your full credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. This site is free and secure and the only place where you can get your full report for free.
If you have a Canopy Visa Credit Card, you have access to ID Navigator Powered by NortonLifeLock. Once you sign up, you’ll have access to the following complimentary benefits.
- Dark Web Monitoring
- Data Breach Notifications
- Stolen Wallet Assist
- One-Bureau Credit Monitoring Alerts¹
- Credit, Bank & Utility Account Freezes
- Restoration Assist
- US-based Member Services & Support
Learn more about this benefit and confirm your eligibility today at canopycu.com/idnavigator.
If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, make sure to take these immediate steps:
- Review your credit report
- Put a freeze on your credit through all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)
- Dispute inaccurate information on your report.
- If you’re able to confirm that your identity was stolen, file an identity theft report through the Federal Trade Commission and reach out to your creditors (like Canopy) to explain your situation.
As always, we are here for you through it all. If you need extra support or further advice on how to keep safe from identity theft, give us a call, or make an appointment online with one of our Certified Financial Coaches.