Get in the habit of requesting a report from a different bureau every 4 months at AnnualCreditReport.com and watch for signs of identity theft. Monitor your bank, credit card and other online account activity regularly to catch anything suspicious before it causes damage.
- Guard your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is the key to your identity. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless it’s for a very specific purpose. Create an account at SSA.gov to explore your Social Security benefits, work and earnings history. This can be a helpful tool throughout your career for future retirement planning.
If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft and placed a fraud alert or freeze on your credit report, you’ll have to open an account in person at a Social Security office or temporarily lift the freeze.
- Update your software and be careful online. Did you know that crooks can infect ads on legitimate websites with viruses? These ads are called “malvertising” and they hit hardest when you have outdated software and operating systems. Even emails that appear to be from a place where you have a real account can be faked. Rather than clicking an ad, type the URL into your browser. And keep up with updates because they contain fixes to known viruses.
- Watch your paper trail. It’s much more common to be hit with identity theft online these days, but you should still keep an eye on your mail. Shred any documents with personal information and opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers.
Finally, if something feels “off,” trust your gut. Investigate anything that sounds too good to be true, and never send your personal information to anyone electronically before verifying why they need it. This also goes for people claiming to be with government agencies. The IRS won’t email or call you for your personal details and companies like Microsoft won’t approach you to sell you tech support you didn’t ask for. When in doubt, verify the request by calling customer service through the verified website before giving up your private details.
As always, we’ve got your back. — The On Your Own Team
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by On Your Own, the National Endowment for Financial Education or any of its affiliate programs.]