How to protect yourself from theft

Anyone who has had their home broken into or been the victim of identity theft understands just how unsettling it can be to have their privacy invaded. To think that a stranger has rooted through your stuff may be even more upsetting than losing the stolen items.

Data from various sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, points to identity theft as one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. Approximately 15 million U.S. residents have their identities used fraudulently each year, with financial losses totalling upwards of $50 billion. Perhaps thanks to the prevalence of Web-based accounts and transactions, as well as reliance on digital services, identity fraud and other types of theft have increased in frequency. According to a 2013 report from Javelin Strategy & Research, an incident of identity fraud occurs every three seconds.

Just about any individual or business is vulnerable to an identity/data attack. It’s crucial that individuals and businesses take steps to protect themselves from identity theft and other forms of theft.

Limit sharing on social media
Many people have no qualms about posting personal data via social networking sites, even though they aren’t taking the precautions necessary to keep that information safe. Always keep your privacy settings at the highest level, and never share sensitive personal information such as your birth date, address or financial information.

Invest in security software
Invest in or upgrade your spyware and security applications. In addition, install any security updates authorized by your operating system or the apps you use.

Create strong passwords
Skip those easy passwords that just about anyone who knows a little about you can guess. Instead, choose complex passwords that feature a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Many passwords are case sensitive, so use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters as well.

Use only secured wi-fi networks
Avoid sharing personal information when using unsecured networks, such as those available at restaurants or coffee shops. It’s easy for someone to hack into your accounts when they don’t have to go through firewalls and other security features.

Exercise caution with email
Opening emails or clicking on attachments and links could initiate spyware, and doing so may even infect your computer with a virus. Also, don’t be fooled by emails requesting personal information. Such messages are typically sent by fraudulent people masquerading as legitimate businesses, such as credit card companies looking to “verify” account information.

Keep personal belongings out of sight
Be mindful of personal items and information at all times. Shred mail that contains account numbers, and store checks and bank account paperwork and files where they can’t be seen. Avoid logging on to personal accounts in public and when your sensitive information might be visible to others.

Theft can be scary, and anytime personal belongings or information is stolen, it can make a person feel violated. Start taking steps to better safeguard your personal data.

Author: Rachel Howell

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