Financial

10 ways to minimize your risk of identity theft

Woman using 2-factor authentication with a laptop and a smartphone

While there's no guaranteed way to avoid identity theft, there are ways to minimize your risk of becoming a victim.

Get started with these 10 tips:

1. Don't share your personal information

Identity thieves are known for impersonating real businesses—including collection agencies, banks, and charities—to gather sensitive data. If you get a call, email, or document in the mail asking for personal information, thoroughly review before responding. Be especially suspicious of anyone who says they need your information urgently, such as someone claiming to be from law enforcement who says you're in trouble.

A cursor hovering over a "click here" hypertext link.

2. Use 'click sense'

Always look closely at email sender addresses. Identity thieves often duplicate emails from companies or contacts you know. Don't open any emails that look suspicious or ask for an unusual action.

If you open an email that directs you to click a link, hover your mouse cursor over the link to see where the URL will direct you to avoid viruses, malware, or phishing scams. If you do click on a link that turns out to be fraudulent, let the legitimate company know so they can warn other consumers.

3. Create strong passwords

Your passwords are your first line of defense against identity theft. Make your passwords long and complex so they're harder to crack. Also, don't duplicate login credentials across sites—if one gets stolen, fraudsters will have access to multiple accounts.

To manage passwords more easily, consider a service. With a password manager, you only have to remember a single master key to access that account instead of multiple logins across different sites.

4. Only connect to secure Wi-Fi networks

Practicing safe Wi-Fi habits can help secure your identity in public spaces. Fraudsters often set up free Wi-Fi networks and use them to steal information from those who join. Use trusted and secure Wi-Fi when away from your home or work network.

A person using a smartphone to get a one-time code for 2-factor authentication

5. Activate 2-factor authentication

Most websites and apps offer 2-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of protection to your online accounts. Once it's activated, whenever you sign in, you'll receive a 1-time code on your mobile phone or computer. Entering the code (along with your password) verifies your identity and grants access to your account.

With this method, even if fraudsters get your password, they won't be able to log into your account. That's why it's important not to share your 2-factor authentication codes with anyone else.

6. Update your social media settings

Keep your location data and personal information on your social accounts private so fraudsters can't scan your profile for personal details. Set your privacy settings to "friends" or "private." Also, make sure personal information, like your driver's license or credit card, isn't visible in any photos you post.

7. Review your credit report

At least annually, access your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. The site was established by federal law as a way for Americans to check their credit. It's free and offers reports from all 3 major bureaus: Experian®, TransUnion, and Equifax. If you spot anything suspicious or wrong, notify your lender and the credit bureau.

A hand holding a smartphone

8. Set up alerts

When you enroll in an identity theft protection service such as Experian's ProtectMyID, you unlock features that will monitor your personal information and let you know if signs of fraud are found.

9. Shop safely

Buying things online is convenient, but it can be a place for thieves to steal your data. Always look for "https" at the start of any URL to help protect your credit card number, and avoid using debit cards when you shop online. Credit cards provide greater protection for fraudulent charges, and unlike debit cards, they're not linked to your bank account.

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10. Try ProtectMyID, fueled by Experian

  • ProtectMyID is an exclusive AAA member benefit.
  • ProtectMyID gives you the identity protection and peace of mind you need.
  • ProtectMyID includes powerful features including Social Security Monitoring, Real-Time Identity Alerts, CreditLock, Fraud Resolution Support, and more.
  • If identity theft occurs, you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Learn more & sign up today

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