Connie J. Schlosberg

Protect yourself from identity theft.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book,” consumers filed 3 million reports with the FTC. Of those 3 million reports, 1.4 million were fraud reports with 25% reporting a loss, which equated to $1.48 billion in losses. Younger people – 43% aged 20 - 29 – reported losing more often than older people. The top three categories for complaints were imposter scams, debt collection, and identity theft. Identity theft accounted for 24% credit card (new account) and 38% tax fraud.

With this alarming data, securing your data should be top priority now more than ever. Here are 7 easy things you can do to safeguard your information:

1. Think Carefully When Entering Information Online

Make sure that you have a secure connection when providing personal or financial information online. The URL in the address bar should change from "HTTP" to "HTTPS" or "SHTTP." A closed padlock symbol by the URL can also show that the connection is secure.

2. Don’t share information

Before you give anyone personal information, make sure the person is who they claim to be and that there is a specific, legitimate reason for needing your personal information. When updating your social media and blog sites, make sure you limit the people who have access to your profile, comments, pictures, tweets, status updates, etc. If it’s published online, odds are it can be accessed, copied and pasted somewhere else.

Also, pay attention to the unsolicited emails that you receive. Verify that the email address is correct. Many phishing attempts come from emails disguised as legitimate businesses. For example, I recently received an email that appeared to be from Apple, but I looked at the email address, and it was from ramakhan@yahoo.com.

3. Build strong passwords

Creating strong, different passwords for each site you use is very important. If you don’t, it can be very detrimental. Read “Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore” to learn more.

Visit pwdhash.com. Here’s how it works: Enter a simple password that you'll remember. Before you submit it, run the PwdHash browser extension for Firefox or Chrome. PwHash will invisibly create a custom, strong password for that site. You only need to remember one password, which your browser can securely convert into a different but strong password for each site you use.

4. Shield yourself from spyware

Be certain that whatever anti-virus program you're using on your computers includes spyware protection. Companies, such as Lavasoft or STOPzilla, offer a free basic anti-spyware service while charging for advanced features.

5. Stop unsolicited, "pre-approved" credit and loan offers

Opt out of pre-screened credit, loan, and insurance offers to prevent potential thieves from intercepting and accepting the offers in your name. See OptOutPrescreen.com for additional information. Also, limit the number of unsolicited emails you receive by customizing your clutter, junk, and spam mail filters.

6. Shred confidential information

Dispose of personal and financial information by shredding them. When in doubt, just shred it. It can’t hurt.

7. Monitor your accounts frequently

Review your accounts online regularly so you can be apprised of and report any issues as soon as it happens. Visit MyIDScore.com, which is a free service that reviews how likely it is your identity is being misused and provides ways you can reduce that risk.

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