Identity Theft Awareness week was officially from January 30 to February 3, 2023. I am in the group of people that did not get the memo about this, so I want to circle back and provide some tips that will help you defend against being a victim to identity theft. Anytime is a good time to tighten up your identity security, but if you haven’t been as careful as you intended, consider this your annual reminder. Here are a few best practices to adopt or continue:
- Change your passwords regularly: Every few months is a great habit to get into. If you change yours today, remind yourself to change them again in six months.
- Check your credit report: You may have been the target of identity theft or fraud and not even realize it until it shows up on your credit reports.
- Tax time is prime time for identity thieves: They would love to get their hands on your 1040 form, and they would also love to claim a phony refund using your personal information. Be careful when sharing information online (see below).
- The I.R.S. doesn’t use unsolicited emails to request information from taxpayers: If you get an email claiming to be from the IRS asking for your personal or financial information, report it to your email provider as spam.
- Avoid “coffee housing” your personal information: Never risk disclosing financial information over a public Wi-Fi network. (Broadband is susceptible, too.) It takes little sophistication to do this—just a little freeware.
- Look for the “https” & the padlock icon when you visit a website: Not just http, but https. When you see that added “s” at the start of the website address, you are looking at a website with active SSL encryption, and you want that. A padlock icon in the address bar confirms an active SSL connection. For solid security when you browse, you could opt for a VPN (virtual private network) service that encrypts 100% of your browsing traffic.
Being careful with your personal data means more than just shredding your documents. Share these reminders with friends and family and help protect against identity theft.