In 2012, an identity fraud incident was reported every 3 seconds according to a study from Javelin Strategy and Research. Here are nine tips that can help reduce your risk to become a victim of identity fraud:
1) Shred old paperwork
Paperwork that contains personal or financial information like contracts, pre-approved credit card applications, personal blank or cashed checks, should be shredded before you dispose it. A good overview of top rated paper shredders can be found on Amazon.com.
If you have a lot of paperwork to destroy, in addition to the above, like old bank and credit card statements, consider using a paper shredding service. Don’t forget to ask if you can witness the shredding process of your data. Some services allow you to watch the shredding action.
- TopTenReviews has a good overview of nationwide shredding services.
- Yelp.com is another good source for local paper shredding services.
- You can visit your local office supply store and ask them about shredding services.
2) Destroy old hard disks and backup CDs
These days, most shredding services destroy digital media too. Ask them if you can bring your hard disks, CDs, DVDs or computer backup tapes. If you don’t mind destroying digital media yourself, try these instructions:
3) Go paperless
Still one of the preferred methods for many identity thieves: stealing your physical mail or changing your mailing address to divert your mail. Going paperless is a good way to prevent physical data theft.
4) Use a private email address
Don’t use the same email address for all your online activities. Use a private email address when accessing important online accounts such as banks, credit cards, or insurances. Don’t use this email to connect to social networks or other services with uncertain security and privacy policies.
5) Use a secure email provider
In the context of ID theft, your Gmail, Hotmail or iCloud accounts are considered safe services. However, if you are looking for other providers that have a strong reputation for safety and security, check out https://www.hushmail.com.
6) Pick strong passwords
Much has been said about passwords. One statement remains: the strength of your passwords correlates with your level of safety for online transactions.
- You can check the strength of your passwords with Microsoft’s password checker. If they are not strong, replace them immediately.
- If you prefer cryptographic-strength passwords, try out Gibson Research Corporation’s password generator:
- Mac OS X users should look at Maverick, the next release of Apple’s desktop operating system. It features a password generator and cloud based password vault.
7) Use secure connections
Whenever you store or access any personal or financial information online, make sure that the online connection is encrypted. Your web browser indicates encrypted connections by
- displaying the letters HTTPS before the web page address. For example, accessing establishes an encrypted connection with 256-bit.
- displaying a lock symbol next to the URL.
Additionally, periodically check the authenticity of a web site by using Fingerprints from Gibson Research Corporation.
8) Store it in the cloud
Storing paperless statements in the cloud can increase protection against data loss or identity theft if your computer gets stolen. Make sure that your cloud service supports:
- secure connections.
- encrypts your access information like passwords.
- is monitored by a security service such as McAfee Secure, Norton by Symantec or Trustwave.
9) Protect your computer
By now, every computer users should know that malware, spyware, keylogger apps and viruses are used to steal your personal information. To reduce your risk to accidentally download malicious software follow these steps:
- Download new software only from websites you trust. On Mac OS X, use the App Store to access new applications. On Windows 8, use the Windows Store. You can also use secure sites like download.com for new software
- Avoid opening email attachments from services or people you don’t know.
- More tips can be found at http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0011-malware.
We hope that by applying these preventive steps, to your everyday routine, will help you to reduce your risk to become a victim of Identity theft.