4 Steps to Preventing Identity Theft

Published: Jan 6, 2020
Woman on computer looking over her shoulder

Identity theft is often a vague concept in people's minds - that is until it happens to them. Even if you haven't personally experienced identity theft, it's likely someone you know has.

According to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, 16.7 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity fraud in 2017, a record high and an eight percent increase from the previous year.

Before it happens to you, it's a good idea to understand what it is and what you can do to prevent it.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition of a person's private identifying information, which can include anything from an address, full name and birth date to a social security number and bank details. If a person has committed identity theft by stealing personal information, they often intend to perform identity fraud, which is the illegal use of this personal information, usually for financial gain. You'll often see these terms used interchangeably since they go hand-in-hand.

Luckily, you aren't powerless when it comes to identity theft. There are plenty of ways you can safeguard your data from would-be thieves. The first step is to understand where it's vulnerable.

Your data is everywhere

Person ordering online with credit cardThere's a lot to love about the internet, especially the convenience of online shopping. But to make shopping and managing payments easier, consumer sites like Amazon, Target, and Netflix can store your credit card information for future purchases.

Web browsers like Safari and Google Chrome also keep a cache of your personal information, including your full name, email address, phone number, and physical address so you can bring everything up with the click of a button. These kinds of conveniences make our lives easier but also mean our important, personal data is being stored in more and more places, some of which may not be secure.

You don't have to be a victim.

Woman using her computer in coffee shop
Avoid public Wi-Fi like coffee shops when using sites that store personal data, like your bank

The good news is that companies who store your information are aware that they also need to safeguard it. But instead of simply trusting it's in good hands, here are four proactive steps you can take to protect your data.

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication on sites where it's available. This requires a secondary login action, like typing in a passcode that is sent directly to your phone before entering the site.

  2. Avoid public Wi-Fi, especially when using sites that store personal data, like your bank.

  3. Install anti-malware on all your devices and sign up for account alerts from your bank and credit card companies that notify you of any potentially malicious activity on your accounts.

  4. Set up the identity theft protection in your LifePlan account to start receiving notifications of any potential compromises and get help should a breach of your data occur.