Identity theft is a big issue, and every single person is at risk. Last year’s Equifax hack showed just how easy it is for criminals to gain access to personal information en masse.
With the ever-increasing number of corporate data breaches, identity theft can happen to anyone at any time – even after they die. But some people are more likely than others to become victims of this devastating crime.
For example, when you experience a major life event that requires filing official paperwork – buying or selling real estate, marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, starting new job, etc. – your sensitive personal information gets entered into all kinds of databases. This gives hackers more opportunities to find an access point and steal your identity.
According to fraud expert Frank McKenna, here are a few other factors that can impact your level of risk for identity theft:
Where You Live
High crime areas seem to attract fraud as these areas have higher rates of identity theft than areas with low crime. If your state, city or neighborhood has a high crime rate, you have a higher risk of having your identity stolen.
Past Breaches Of Your Personal Data
Every data breach naturally causes an increase in fraud for several weeks or even months. The more times you are affected by a data breach, the more likely your information will be sold on the Dark Web. If you have been affected by a data breach, change your passwords and contact your banking institutions to make sure your information is secure.
As the past several major data breaches have indicated, if you haven’t been affected by a data breach yet, you probably will in the future. If you use the same login credentials everywhere, you increase your risk of fraud across several different online platforms. Don’t give a hacker your password to your Amazon, Uber and Facebook accounts because your Twitter got hacked.
Your Credit Score
A good credit score is much more valuable to a fraudster than a bad one. A good credit score implies access to wealth and more credit, both of which are highly sought after by fraudsters.
Reducing Your Risk Of Identity Theft
While you can’t prevent identity theft from ever happening, you can greatly decrease your chances of becoming a victim by following a few best practices.
First, it’s important to monitor your bank accounts and credit reports regularly to ensure that there’s no unauthorized or unrecognized activity. You should also never share more personal information than is absolutely necessary. Protecting details like your birthday, home address, Social Security number, and other sensitive data means it’s less likely to be stolen and misused.
Another good way to protect your identity is to watch what you post on social media. A fraudster only needs to look at your social media accounts to get compromising information on you, such as your birthday, pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. These bits of information give hackers clues to bypass your password by answering security questions on different accounts. Make sure you regularly check your privacy settings on all your social media accounts and update passwords frequently.
Finally, conduct a periodic public records search of yourself to see what comes up. If there’s anything questionable under your name – an arrest record that you know isn’t yours, for instance – your identity may have been stolen.