6 Tips to Protecting Your Identity
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Read Time: 3 mins
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when a person’s private information is fraudulently acquired and used by another person, including social security numbers, account numbers, and more. In the digital age, data is everywhere and anything can be stolen. Identity theft can occur as a result of stolen mail, phishing scams, data breaches, computer viruses, and more.
You might not even be aware that identity theft has occurred until you review your credit report, credit card statement, or check your balance. Identity theft is a growing problem, and many people continue to fall victim each year. It is best to review your credit report at least once a year to check for suspicious activity. You can check it for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.
While complete elimination of identity theft risk may not be likely, one can take precautions to minimize the chances of identity theft. Here are some tips to help protect your identity.
1. Keep personal documents safe.
Not all personal data is on the computer. Lock all tangible financial documents in a safe place and limit what you carry with you when you go out. Avoid giving out more information than needed. If you don’t need a particular document, don’t just throw it away. Use a crosscut shredder to shred documents, or make it impossible to read the contents of the document. Destroy labels on prescription bottles and do not share medical or financial information with anyone.
2. Keep data secure online.
The highest risk of identity theft is online. Make sure to use strong passwords for financial and personal data. Use at least eight characters for your password and make sure to avoid easy or obvious passwords. Try incorporating numbers, special characters, and capital letters into your password.
For an added layer of security, you can use a passphrase as your password. A passphrase is a sequence of words and characters that are easy for you to remember. Generally, they are longer and contain dictionary words. Your passphrase can consist of a childhood memory, favorite food, place you've visited, or experiences you've had. For a stronger one, try a mix and match of these things.
Avoid using the same password or passphrase for all social media or websites, and make sure to change them from time to time.
3. Check records regularly.
Check financial and medical records at least once every three months. Keeping a personal record can help you catch unusual activity. If there is any unusual activity on your accounts, having records will allow you to quickly report theft. Sign up for eStatements and eNotices in order to receive your documents securely through Online or Mobile Banking. (With AllSouth's eStatements you'll also have access to the past 18 months of statements.)
4. Don’t overshare.
Make sure not to post too much information about yourself online. Someone looking to steal your information could use what you publish online to answer personal questions on your behalf to gain access to your financial and personal data. Avoid giving out personal information via phone or through email, unless through a verified source.
5. Protect your phone.
Many great applications are available that help keep track of your finances or fill out taxes. This means a lot of sensitive information could be accessed if your mobile phone is stolen. To avoid this, keep your phone with you at all times and password protect it. You can also use biometrics to protect your phone such as TouchID or FaceID.
6. Be cautious of phishing scams.
Many identity thieves use phishing scams to gather personal information. They can either send an email impersonating your financial institution or call pretending to be a mobile phone company operator. They may ask you to click on a particular link or get you to tell them your social security number, credit card number, date of birth, or other sensitive information. Trusted companies will never ask you to reveal your information in this way. If you are suspicious of anyone who contacts you claiming to work for your bank, your mobile service or any other service you use, hang up and call the number you have on file for the company and service.
Remember keeping your identity from being stolen is key. So keep your documents safe, data secure, don’t overshare, protect your phone, be on the lookout for phishing scams and check your records frequently.
Check out our Fraud Center to learn more about identity theft protection.