Imagine these nightmares playing out in your life: You wake up one day and suddenly get a call from a debt collector situated 3 states away, asking you to pay for a thousand dollar loan that you know nothing about. Or, you receive news that a two-bedroom house 2,000 miles away is being foreclosed in your name. Or, your credit card company rings you in the middle of the day to check a shopping spree in another country you played no part. Unfortunately, cases of identity fraud has been plaguing Americans for a long time—and this year it only got worse. With the Coronavirus keeping us all occupied and out-of-sorts, experts have seen a drastic rise in such crimes.

“We’re now in totally uncharted waters, especially when it comes to hacking and identity theft. Breaches have become the third certainty in life behind death and taxes,” cyber security expert Adam Levin said in a Yahoo! Release. In fact, according to new research, around eight out of every ten consumers (roughly 86%) have been victims of data breaches, credit/debit card fraud, and identity theft this year alone. As most of 2020 was spent indoors, more and more Americans have taken advantage of online shopping and other services, providing hackers with more chances to steal information and conduct fraudulent activity.

That should rightly shock us into action beause such cases and crimes are preventable. You can greatly reduce the risk by following significant steps and taking extra precautions whenever you log in with your information online. Here are some surefire ways to help up your cyber security and protect yourself from falling prey to identity theft:

 

1. Take advantage of identity protection services

With identity theft-related crimes becoming more and more sophisticated over the years, its best to get the help of experts. Thankfully, cyber security services have also increased over the years. These companies not only assess you or your company's current security situation and a heads up of possible breaches, they can also offer solutions when it happens. 

We highly recommend Virginia-based Identity Guard, a group that has been around since 2001. They provide constant scanning via artificial intelligence to detect any threats as well as round-the-clock quick alerts.Identity Guard’s team will also assist and guide you in case any threat is detected with a personal case manager, as well as insuring you with a hefty insurance policy for any stolen funds.

Whether for personal, organizational, or even familial use, Identity Guard will help ensure you’re safe anytime you log online. Right now, Identity Guard also offers a free junk mail and robocall blocker with any annual plan purchase. You may learn more about their programs and pricing here.

cc2 Services like Identity Guard will always look out for any suspicious activity in your accounts, and immediately notify you. Photo: Pixabay (CC0)

 

2. Dispose of private records and statements properly

Making sure you're not just mindleslly throwing away private mail, statements and records is an important but oftentimes neglected step. Private financial information, including solicitations, credit card statements and the like are sometimes left out lying around the house, exposing you to security threats.

Documents which contain information normally used in security steps (birthdates, addresses, government names) such as medical records should also be securely put away or dealt with accordingly. You can shred them, tear them up, douse them with water or burn them in your fireplace. Just make sure the information is totally unreadable.  

cc4 Taking extra steps to make sure you don't leave any paper trail behind is a great precautionary measure to keeping yourself safe. Photo: Pixabay (CC0)

 

3. Keep your social security number safe

Your social security number is a big part of your financial identity, but many still treat it so casually and carelessly. Avoid writing it down, sending it over via public Wi-Fi or entering it into a non-secure website.

Don't let your credit card out of your sight. When possible, pay with cash, although do exercise safety precautions as the world is still dealing with a pandemic. If there’s no other choice but to pay via card, do the process yourself or first make sure that it’s verified and safe.

Social Security When safe and possible, pay in cash. Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

4. Stop Pre-Approved credit card offers

Another way to keep your identity safe is by stopping pre-approved credit card offers, as these of course, have your information on them. In keeping with the “don’t leave a paper trail” rule, make sure to rip and/or shred any credit card offers before disposing of them, and to opt out of the offers to stop them altogether. Besides, some of these credit card offers can only lead to unnecessary expenses if not taken care of.

cc5 Make it a habit to always first verify everything properly first before making any card-based payment. Photo: Pixabay (CC0)

 

5. Monitor your credit report and regularly review your financial statements

Another good precaution to make is to obtain and then review your credit report to check for any activity, suspicious or not. Granted, acquiring a plan from services like Identity Guard will do this for you, but studying them yourself is also good practice.

Additionally, make sure that you also recognize all of the locations, purchases and merchants listed in your statements before paying your bills. Consider closing any accounts that you don’t need or are not using as well, such as those that are either bank-issued or from department stores. Fewer cards also mean fewer things to worry about.

cc3 Before paying credit card bills, always check to make sure that all transactions are made by you. Photo: Pixabay (CC0)

 

6. Remain vigilant  

With the world still in a very fragile state, expect scammers and hackers to take advantage. Right now, the most common of which at the moment are phishing scams, work from home scams and medical supply scams so always be on your toes. The cyber security industry is bound to get bigger because these cases of identity theft won’t be stopped anytime soon.