It’s easy to push the threat of identity theft away and out of your mind when it doesn’t happen to you or anyone you know. But with an average cost of $22,000 per victim, identity theft is one of those rare occurrences it’s worth guarding yourself against just in case you become one of the millions of people affected each year.
Five Steps to Prevent Identity Theft
- Don’t save your login information for bank, credit card and other financial websites. This is especially important for any computer used outside the home, such as a laptop or work computer.
- When shopping online, log in as a guest so the store doesn’t save your credit card information in an accessible profile. If this isn’t possible, make sure to monitor transactions on that account regularly and change your password several times a year.
- If you think your data has been compromised, consider putting an alert on your credit reports. Adding a fraud alert to your Transunion, Experian and Equifax profile will ensure that creditors are forced to gather additional proof of identity whenever you (or someone posing as you) apply for credit. If you have no indication that your data has been breached, but you still want extra effort put into validating your identity, consider placing an initial fraud alert on your profiles.
- File your taxes early. Some thieves use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns. When you file early, you reduce the likelihood of them successfully doing so since your return will already be on file.
- Shred your medical bills, prescription drug labels and insurance statements. Identity theft comes in a lot of forms, and medical ID theft is one of them. With the information on your various medical statements and drug labels, someone can have expensive medical treatments charged to you. They may even gather enough information to gain access to your financial accounts. It’s also important that you closely review all your insurance statements just to make sure that you and your insurer have only been billed for valid procedures and services.