Imagine you have built up a lifetime of wealth and money. Your credit is wonderful, you can go and buy any car or house you want, and your house is full of expensive electronics. This is because you’ve been successful in your life.. 

Now, imagine you have left your home’s door unlocked. Maybe you went to the store really quick and figured you’d be back in just a few minutes. But when you get home, you find the front door open. In just a few minutes, someone has broken in and robbed you of what you took years to buy. They haven’t just robbed you of your money. They were successful in robbing you of your money and your security.

Chances are that you would never leave your house without locking the door, especially now that there are smart homes. You can lock your door with just a push of a button using your cell phone.

However, chances are that you may become a victim in another way. You could be a victim of identity theft. 

2019 Identity Theft Statistics

  • In the year 2019, 14.4 million people were an identity fraud victim; or approximately 1 out of every 15 people.
  • 33% of the adults in the United States have been a victim of identity theft. This is over twice the average globally.
  • 1 out of 5 victims experienced it repeatedly.
  • It happens every 2 seconds
  • Identity theft usually happens because of a data breach.
  • In 2019, 146 million records were exposed, and the number of data breaches went up by 17%.
  • In 2019, consumers lost over $1.9 billion because of identity fraud and theft.
  • Over 77% of people who were victims of identity theft reported emotional distress

Identity Theft & Your Credit

When people think of identity theft and their credit, they often think in terms of not being able to buy what they want. But the truth is, it’s a lot more. Let’s look at some of the hidden costs of poor credit.

  1. Higher insurance rates – Many insurance companies will charge someone with poor credit a higher rate. The reason is that companies believe someone with a poor credit score will be more likely to file a claim.
  2. Deposits for utilities – The company will believe that you don’t pay your bills. So, you may need a deposit before they will turn on things like gas and electric. You also may need a deposit to get a cell phone plan.
  3. Harder time getting a job – Depending on the type of job you want to get, they may run a credit check. If you want to become a manager, the company will want to know you can be trusted with funds and making good financial decisions.

These are just some of the surprising effects of having a low credit score. If you have your identity stolen, by the time you discover it the damage may be done. When someone is successful in stealing your identity, it’s very scary and very real.

How to Protect Yourself & Your Credit on the Go

When you’re out and about, keeping yourself safe from identity theft means being smart. Here are some tips:

  1. Use an RFID blocking wallet – This will ensure that your cards can’t be scanned by other people. They also keep your money secure, like any good wallet.
  2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi – You don’t know who else is on it. When possible, use your phone’s data. Many phone plans offer unlimited data, so take advantage of it. 
  3. Keep your credit file frozen. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion allow you to unfreeze and freeze your account with virtually the push of a button online.
  4. Check ATMs for skimmers = These are things that identity thieves use to get your information. When you are trying to get money, they are trying to get your info. Below are some things to look for:
    1. Sticky glue or tape residue on the ATM
    2. PIN keypad or card insert is bulky
    3. There’s something hanging on the ATM
    4. The keypad or card slot can be wiggled due to loose-fitting attachments

Protecting Yourself & Your Credit at Home

Now that you know what to do on the go, now let’s talk about security at home. Think about the websites that you visit. Chances are that you have a lot of them. Banking, social media, shopping, and email sites all require a password and a login. So, how do you keep everything straight? More importantly, how do you keep yourself safe and avoid having issues with someone stealing your identity and ruining your credit? The good news is that there are things that you can do to avoid problems.

  1. Don’t Reuse Passwords – Yes, it’s probably easy to do this. After all, when you have just one password, you only have to remember one. But doing this can be a huge mistake. That’s because a lot of companies have their security breached. This means that if one of the accounts is successfully hacked, and your password is the same, your other accounts are at risk.
  2. Keep It Simple =  If you have registries that aren’t as sensitive, you want to keep things simple. You can change your password so that it’s only a bit different from the others. For instance, if you choose to use ‘cookie1’ for your password, you can use “cookie2”, “cookie3”, etc.
  3. Create a Protected Folder = Make a folder of your passwords on your computer or in a private place. When you register in a new site, make a new entry in the folder.
  4. Protect Your Computer’s Registries Folder – If your computer isn’t password protected or if you’d like extra security, this is a good option.  (Although if you do this consider backing up that password just in case you forget it.)
  5. Be Careful About Links and Attachments – Don’t open links or attachments from people you don’t know. 
  6. Get a Good Antivirus Program – Sometimes, even when you are careful, viruses happen. Having a good program will help you with protecting yourself and your credit.
  7. Do not ever share your computer screen with anybody who you do not know and fully trust. You cannot see it but hackers can steal all of your computer’s information. For this reason we prefer to see you keep your passwords in an encrypted place or a physical safe, but we know you have to live your life too.
  8. Set encryption for your computer or device. Many have this functionality built in. The higher the encryption the better.

For information on password protecting a folder on a MAC click here and in Windows click here.

You have worked hard and you were successful. Keep your money, your credit, and your identity safe by being smart.
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

These are some of the ways that you can be successful in keeping your credit and identity safe. You wouldn’t leave your door unlocked so people can steal your items and money. So don’t leave your identity unlocked either. Use these tips and you’ll have a better chance of being successful at keeping your identity safe.

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