4 Habits that Increase the Risk of Identity Theft
Did you know that the FTC received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports in 2020? Or that in every 2 seconds, there is an identity victim?
Identity theft is becoming a prevalent and increasing problem in the US.
In fact, recent Atlas VPN research has revealed that Americans are more afraid of identity theft than murder. Yet, many Americans continue to engage in activities and behaviors that put them at the risk of having their identity stolen.
That said, there is no surefire way to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. But, by adjusting some high-risk habits, you could effectively reduce the likelihood of having your identity stolen. Here are the five common habits that increase the risk of identity theft.
1. Carrying Your Social Security Number in Your Wallet
Your social security number is your gateway to your identity and credit.
So, safeguarding it might as well be your strongest defense against identity theft. Without it, identity thieves will have a hard time creating a synthetic identity with your personal info.
Many people have a habit of carrying their social security cards in their wallets, not knowing that it increases their risks of having their identity stolen. To be on the safer side, never carry your social security card in your wallet.
It’s also vital to ensure the cards you carry around (like health insurance card, driver’s license, etc.) don’t contain your social security number.
2. Not Checking Your Bank Statement and Credit Reports Regularly
Your credit file is the first place signs of identity theft will show up.
So, make a habit of checking your credit reports and bank statements regularly. On that note, you’re entitled to one full credit report from all the three credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, every year.
You could order one report from one credit bureau every four months to space out your vigilance. If you find ordering your credit report every four months a hassle, you could consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service.
Besides monitoring your accounts, credit monitoring companies go the extra mile to help prevent identity theft by offering extra services such as dark web monitoring and safe browsing to keep you safe on the web.
3. Using Public Wi-Fi
In an age of smartphones and social media, it can be hard to go a day without the internet. Many hotels and national chains, including Starbucks and McDonalds, even offer free Wi-Fi to increase the time spent on their premises and maybe get customers to spend more.
However, the online environment is plagued with dangers and threats.
From cybersecurity threats to identity theft to an invasion of privacy, the internet can be a dangerous neighborhood to everyone. And the free public Wi-Fi can serve as a gateway to most if not all of these threats.
Hackers can easily exploit public Wi-Fi because these networks are usually not secured. Cybercriminals can use an unsecured internet connection to distribute malware. Also, it makes it easier for identity thieves to hijack your email attachments if you’re on an unsecured internet.
So, to be on the safe side, avoid using public Wi-Fi. If you must use it, consider subscribing to a personal VPN service that allows you to access the internet over a private browser.
4. Using the Same Simple Password for Multiple Accounts
Never make the mistake of using one password for multiple accounts. Instead, create different passwords for different accounts.
To better secure your account, avoid using information related to your name, birthday, initials, or social security number. Most importantly, make sure you have a unique password for each one of your accounts.
Studies show that people tend to reuse passwords for multiple logins despite the security risk. It’s not uncommon to find someone using the same xxx12345 password for Netflix, Gmail, Facebook, Fiverr, and online banking.
The risk here is that if an identity thief gets a hold of that password, they can empty your bank accounts and even wreak havoc on your reputation. However, you can avoid all of this by using a password manager.
By avoiding these habits, you’ll reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft.
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