Protecting Yourself And Your Finances From ID Theft
Of all the potential new perils that the internet age has brought along, few of them are as destructive and difficult to recover from as identity theft. Unless you’ve somehow managed to maintain a one-hundred percent cash-based lifestyle (which is nearly impossible these days), your data can become a target for hackers.
While having a credit or debit card hacked can be irksome and a temporary setback, having your identity hacked can have severe and long-lasting repercussions.
If a thief or hacker takes over your identity, that means they can access your current financial resources and create new accounts as well. Within a very short period, ID theft can ruin your credit and create a mountain of new debt. You’ll be stuck with it if you can’t prove someone else was using your identity.
How To Protect Yourself From ID Theft
Unfortunately, there’s no way to get one-hundred percent guaranteed protection against identity theft. However, there are several things you can do to both proactively prevent ID theft, and to halt additional damage if it does happen.
Most online consumer security experts agree that the following measures will greatly decrease your chances of ID theft:
- Regularly review financial accounts for errors or suspicious activity
- Enroll in a credit monitoring service
- Always use strong passwords or use a password manager
- Limit the number of websites that you give personal and/or financial information to
If your personal information is stolen, you should immediately take the following actions:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Alert the authorities and your financial account providers
- Consider freezing your credit
The longer a thief or hacker has access to your personal information without your knowledge, the more damage to your credit and finances they can do. It’s essential to act quickly and decisively in the event of ID theft.
Recovering From ID Theft
If the worst does happen and your personal information is stolen, you’ll need to go through the process of recovering your identity. Depending on the severity of your identity theft, the recovery process may take a few weeks, a few months, or possibly longer.
Because ID theft has become so widespread and affected so many people, the government and the consumer financial industry have created sophisticated resources to help people recover.
If you are a victim of identity theft, one of the best places to start is with the ID theft recovery checklist provided by the Federal Trade Commission.
Finally, if you’re worried about your investment and/or retirement accounts, contact your fund manager or financial planner as soon as possible to alert them of the theft. This ensures your funds stay secure while you recover your identity.
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