Ever since the dawn of the digital age, our identities and private information have constantly been under siege. Each year, Identity theft, fraud, and impersonation scams aren’t anything new, but they’re much more prevalent nowadays (and easier for attackers to carry out). The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) receives millions of reports of identity theft or potential fraud every year.
And it’s only getting worse (because of course it is). Every bad actor with access to compromised credentials or able to infiltrate a network is going to exploit whatever they can get their hands on. That’s why protecting yourself from identity theft is so critical these days. So, how can you keep your identity safe in the digital age? Read on to find out.
Monitor Your Credit
The best identity protection starts with monitoring your credit. Most people should check their credit reports at least once a year to monitor for anomalies, score changes, and adverse actions taken by lenders. The three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—allow you to get a free copy of your credit report every year, making this much easier to do. It requires your social security number, name, and address to verify your identity.
After you get your credit report, you’ll want to review it for errors or unauthorized accounts. If anything is incorrect, you must get in touch with the credit bureau immediately to correct the issue. Monitoring for errors or anomalies in your credit report can go a long way toward protecting you from identity theft and ensuring your personal information is completely secure at all times.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
Have you ever visited a coffee shop, the library, or your favorite restaurant and noticed the establishment offers free Wi-Fi? If so, you might have thought about using it. But the amenity comes with a bit of a downside: poor security. Although the FTC asserts that many sites are safe enough to use via public Wi-Fi, there are still some that can cause major issues.
Using public Wi-Fi is like going to a wild west duel with a teddy bear. It’s not safe for every site you visit. Because some websites don’t use encrypted protocols, your information is more vulnerable when you visit them. Some sites, like banking sites, might not be secure enough to protect your sensitive data.
That means anybody with access to that network can compromise it or steal it. So avoiding public Wi-Fi is in your best interest. If you must use public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a VPN or security program to protect yourself while using that particular network.
Use Multi-factor Authentication
In recent years, the concept of using multi-factor authentication (or MFA) has grown tremendously popular. And why shouldn’t it? Multi-factor authentication gives people an additional layer of security when they’re online. Think of it as the layers of an onion. They offer protection to the plant when it is in the ground growing.
MFA can do the same thing for you when you’re online. Instead of using a simple password that can be cracked or stolen, you use a combination of the password and another device (email, authenticator, text, etc) to securely log into a website. By requiring this additional bit of authentication, having access to the password won’t let attackers into the site. This helps reduce potential phishing attacks, data compromise, and identity theft attempts.
Use a VPN
We previously alluded to the benefits of a VPN earlier, but it’s impossible to overstate their value in safeguarding users from identity theft. As cyber threats become more sophisticated every day, vpns have stepped into their role as protectors of privacy everywhere. By routing traffic through different IP addresses around the world and encrypting it, the data remains safe as you move around online. It’s a simple, yet effective way to protect your identity.
Vpns often come as standalone products but some are incorporated into larger security suites. Finding the one that’s right for you will depend on some research and your needs, but getting one is essential in the modern cyber threat climate.
Install Security Software
Although it might sound cliche (unless you’re an Alice fan), sometimes the best defense is a good offense. That’s where security software can be a stalwart companion in the right against identity theft. Security software has built-in antivirus and anti-malware protection.
This means it can detect, prevent, and eliminate the type of malware that leads to compromised data. This includes spyware, keyloggers, and trojans. Security software also helps guard you against phishing by implementing anti-phishing protocols and identifying potentially dangerous web threats.
They can protect you from drive-by downloads which can infect your system and compromise your data. Many of these systems also have built-in VPNs and ID theft protection services. That means they can help you monitor for stolen information, identify if you’ve been affected by a breach, and much more. Choosing the right security software can help you go the extra mile to protect yourself and keep everything that matters most to you safe whenever you’re online.