It seems identity theft is always in the news as criminals find more ingenious ways of getting hold of your personal information to commit fraud, especially online. This article looks at simple steps you can take to protect your identity.
You walk into the coffee shop to get your morning coffee, as usual, but to your surprise your credit card has been declined. Puzzled, you call your credit card company only to be asked if you've made any major technology purchases recently in Aruba.
That's right! Your identity has been stolen, but you're not alone. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing types of crime throughout the world. According to Statistics Brain, over 11.5 million Americans will become the victim of an identity fraud just this year alone.
Wipe your phone or laptop remotely
One of the easiest ways an identity thief can take control of your identity is simply by picking up your mobile phone, tablet or laptop. Mobile devices, including laptops, often contain a huge amount of personal information. Some of them even automatically log into our bank and credit accounts. While locking your phone or laptop can be useful, "wiping" it can be even better. iPhones, Androids and BlackBerry phones all come with the ability to wipe the device automatically under certain circumstances, and this will restore it to factory settings. LoJack is an example of a software system that provides remote wiping for laptops as Absolute.com outlines.
Secure your device in reasonable ways
When trying to secure your laptop or mobile device, it's important not to get caught up in gimmicks. A lengthy pass phrase, for instance, is the best possible method to secure an account. Short but complex passwords are easy to crack using brute force methods, and clever items of technology such as biometric readers are often flawed. Network World, for instance, covered an instance in which laptop fingerprint readers were actually less secure than traditional passwords due to the methods by which they worked. Gimmicks come and go, but a pass phrase of 10 to 20 characters with punctuation included has almost no chance of being cracked.
Lower your overall exposure
If you make a lot of online purchases, you should keep in mind that you should never use a debit card while online. It is much easier to get reimbursed from a credit card in the event of identity theft than a debit card. You may also want to only use a single credit card online, and you can use a third-party payment processor such as PayPal or Google Wallet. All of these things together will protect you from the possibility that someone might get a hold of your credit card information and begin racking up new charges. There are even single use virtual credit cards available today, as mentioned in Life Hacker, that can vastly reduce your online exposure.
Get a secured email account
One of the largest vulnerabilities that people have is their email account. Many individuals, most likely yourself included, have all of their financial documents and other information sent to them through their personal email account. This account is usually linked to their laptop, tablet, mobile phone, work computer or home computer. As an alternative, it's smarter to get a single secure and encrypted email address for all of your financial communications and exchanges. MakeUseOf.com lists a few of the most popular secure email providers that are popular today.