The start of another year is always a time of hope and reflection. It’s why people bother to make New Year’s resolutions: This is the year I start saving for retirement, this is the year I finally lose weight, this is the year I go after the career I’ve always wanted, this is the year I find my soulmate. While some resolutions might seem more like dreams than decisions, healthy identity resolutions are not only good for you, they’re certainly within reach.
Resolve to Secure Your Identity
While some threats to your identity are mostly out of your control, like hacking or data breaches, there are a lot of things you can do quite easily that will make you less of a target for identity theft. Some of these things will even help you minimize the damage if an unforeseeable attack on your data does occur.
The most important thing to remember about protecting your identity is that it is a little bit like those other resolutions: it’s a lifestyle change—albeit an easy one—and not a once-and-done approach to personal data security.
Know Your Number
Your credit score is more than just an indicator of your buying power, it’s also attached to your credit report. By staying on top of both your score and your report, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone. Your regularly requested credit reports will show you any suspicious activity taking place in your name, while your credit score will help keep you on the right track where your debt is concerned.
You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies every year. If you request one in January, one in May, and one in September, you’ll get an ongoing picture of your credit and be better informed if someone is using your identity. Stop what you’re doing right now and set alerts in your phone to remind you to request your reports, and then click here for the contact information for each agency.
Safeguard Your Documents
Is your Social Security card in your wallet? Get it out and move it to a secured, preferably locked drawer. Is that an unopened credit card offer in your trash can? Get it out and destroy it before you throw it away. Is that a statement from your health insurance provider tossed in your junk mail pile, still sealed in its envelope? Get it out, open it, and make sure that those charges are actually yours and not from someone who used your identity to get medical care.
Your important documents—and some that might not seem so important—are gateways to your identity if they fall in the wrong hands. Read them over then lock them up or shred them before discarding.
Watch Out for those Robot Overlords
OK, so robots probably aren’t going to rise up and take over the planet, but your unsecured technology can certainly turn on you without so much as a warning beep. Leaving your home Wi-Fi network unsecured, connecting to the internet over public Wi-Fi, failing to put strong, unique passwords on your internet-based accounts, forgetting to install and update your antivirus software, and oversharing on social media are just scratching the surface when it comes to your own technology compromising your identity.
It’s also important to remember that every online account came with terms and conditions that you agreed to when you signed up. If you didn’t read those lengthy legal statements, you might be very surprised by the permission you just gave those websites. It’s never too late to go back and check them out, and then decide if you still want to keep that account.
Make 2017 Safe and Secure
Again, there are some aspects to your identity that you cannot protect against, like someone in your doctor’s office selling your information. That’s why it’s important to secure what you can control and monitor what you can’t, and the best way to do that is to adopt strong habits for protecting your data. Those habits might be new to you at first, but they’re certainly easier to follow through with than that “go to the gym every single day” habit you were planning on!
Posted by Eva Velasquez, CEO, Identity Theft Resource Center
LifeLock proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center