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How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Protecting your online identity goes beyond social media hackers. Anyone who has access to your personal data, such as your Social Security number, passwords, or PINs, can be a direct threat to your finances.

Every year, 17.6 million Americans become the victims of identity theft, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This year, you are more likely to face identity theft than any other crime, according to the bureau. To help keep your money safe, check out these tips.


Try not to use the same password on different sites. Hackers steal passwords from sites with limited security and use those passwords to break into your bank, email, and social media accounts. Also, frequently change your passwords frequently, so, if your passwords are breached, you will have a new one in place before the thieves get a chance to use the stolen ones. Never leave your passwords where they are publicly accessible.


Although identity theft is most often digital, you still need to protect your identity on paper. Shred documents that have identifying details about you. If you receive pre-approved credit card offers, tear those up before you throw them away. Someone could take them out of your garbage and apply for a card in your name.


To further protect your identity, never share personal information with anyone you don't know. Keep in mind that scam artists have all kinds of tricks to get you to reveal information. Sometimes, they make fake profiles on social media, even attempting to make romantic connections with potential victims. At that point, they ask for money or they solicit photos, which they later use to blackmail their victims.


Phishing emails are another way to get personal information from you. They often appear to be from your bank, credit union, mortgage lender, or even clients or business partners. Look closely at all emails: Phishing emails have little differences that make them identifiable from genuine emails.

If anyone asks for your personal data such as passwords or Social Security number, contact them using a phone number you trust. For example: Imagine you get an email that appears to be from your bank and it's asking for the PIN to your ATM card. You know that's not a normal request, so you call the bank, and they let you know they didn't send the information.


Finally, consider monitoring your credit through a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring doesn't protect you from identity theft, but it does help keep your money safe by alerting you when potential fraud has occurred. The sooner you know about a problem with any of your financial accounts, the faster you can fix it and protect your assets.

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