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Identity Theft Protection: Online and Offline Tactics

Identity theft is no small thing. The FTC estimates that 11.7 million people suffer from some form of identity theft in the US each year. The FTC did the math, that’s around 5% of the population getting hardcore pwned.

How this can happens varies, but why this happens always has the same reason: At one point you were not careful enough with a key piece of your information. Don’t feel bad, it happens all too often, especially with social media giving everyone a digital platform to share on. Let’s help you out with some identity theft protection tips now.

Identity theft protection issues

1: Watching online shopping accounts

You online accounts, like ebay, Amazon, Apple, etc, are usually just one password away from being hacked. Once a hacker has that password they can go into your account, change shipping locations, and have you buy them a ‘present’ right off your own account. With digital content, they can download it right onto their machine.

Hackers can also get hold of your credit card and banking details in these accounts for even more theft. This is why having strong passwords, and different ones for different sites, is so important. Passwords are not just that annoying thing you type when you want to buy something on etsy, they’re your primary line of protection against hackers online. You will also want to make sure that you have all notifications on when purchases are made, just to be sure.

2: Online accounts being hacked

You have so, so much of your information in your online accounts. This can even include your social media accounts where you let your bank account number slip. Or a hacker finds your mother’s maiden name, or the name of your school, or …any little thing which they can use to hack. Information is power.

Something which you need to be very careful of, especially with social media, is using public WiFi networks. You’re very vulnerable on them, and can give up your passwords and information as plain text to a hacker with a spying tool. Stopping them with a countermeasure in a well encrypted VPN client could be the best identity theft protection tool that you can easily buy.

3: Receiving bills you don’t know about

Having bills sent to your home, with your name on them, when you didn’t have anything to do with them is disturbing. To say the least. This is the offline equivalent of paying attention to your shopping accounts as credit cards can be opened in your name, and address can be changed at the Post Office. You may think that these bills are spam, but you should at least open these bills and have a look.

4: IRS sending multiple tax return notices

Someone coming along and filing your tax return for you, so that they can steal your return, is all too common. It can happen easily through online tax filing software when you choose a weak password. It can also happen simply by your mail being opened up, the ones addressed as tax returns, and information then being stolen or changed.

In this case the IRS is, for once, the good guys. Too many people can go years without knowing that anything is wrong. If the IRS thinks there’s some kind of tax fraud going on this notice could save you. Don’t ignore it.

5: Debt collectors start calling you

You’re a good person who pays their debt on time …so why is a debt collector calling you? This, again, is a sign that someone has used your details to charge bills under your name. They, of course, have no intention of ever paying them.

While you will have to negotiate what’s going to happen with the debt collector, realising you have no obligation to pay them right away as you investigate the claim, definitely take it as a sign that you need to look at more identity theft protection problems right away. When it comes to debt collection, have a long think about what John Oliver presents here. Watch the whole thing, it’s great:

Feature image via Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock