Identity Theft Is Up Across The Nation. How to Protect Yourself

This photo illustration shows a man in a gray hoodie against a background displaying people's credit card information. This story is about how to stop identity theft.
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Data breaches that give hackers access to our personal information happen all too often. The more we depend on digital passwords, the more Bad Guys want to steal them. Millions of people end up changing their passwords, disputing fraudulent charges and arguing with the IRS every year due to identity theft.

And while data breaches are down in 2020, identity theft through other methods is up. There are scams happening around stimulus checks, Amazon and Apple purchases and fake IRS calls.

A report from Wallethub found that Floridians are the most likely to be targeted for identity theft and fraud, while people in Wyoming are the least. But we’re all at risk of getting a scam call, so it’s important to be vigilant and protect yourself.

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud

When someone steals your identity or targets you for fraud, it’s more than just an unauthorized credit card purchase that you’ll be dealing with. They can wreak havoc on your finances for a long time — they can steal your tax refund, open credit cards in your name and file for unemployment benefits. Your credit score could be damaged, making it difficult for you to get a mortgage, lease a car or open a credit card for years to come.

Make Sure You Don’t Fall For a Scam Or Open Yourself Up to Theft in The First Place

Don’t open emails you don’t recognize, don’t download something from an unrecognized source and never send your password or Social Security number to someone over phone, email or a messenger app. It’s always best to verify it directly from the source it’s coming from.

And remember, the federal government won’t demand payment over the phone via gift cards or wire transfers, and they can’t threaten to call police or immigration if you defy them — these are all marks of a scammer.

You should also choose passwords that are difficult to guess and change them for each website log-in you use. This way, if one website has a data breach, it won’t risk your accounts on other websites.

Keep Tabs on Your Accounts

It may not always be obvious that you’ve been scammed or had your information stolen. There can be small charges on your credit card, or it may be a year before you realize as you’re trying to do your taxes. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant.

Sign up for account alerts for suspicious activity and check in on your credit score often — you’ll be able to see if someone was trying to open any accounts in your name. Try using a website like Credit Sesame.

Within 90 seconds, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one) and if there’s any suspicious activity.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

While some crimes are impossible to prevent on your own, you can still make smart choices online to prevent further attacks and stop new ones from getting worse. Be smart and stay safe!