How to protect yourself from identity theft

The amount of information online is increasing every day. This makes it easier for you to manage your finances, but it can also make it easier for identity thieves to access your personal information.
 
By actively managing your online footprint, you can help protect yourself from potential identity theft. Here are 5 steps you can take to keep your identity safe.




Be cautious/Avoid using public networks
There’s no denying the beauty of companies offering free wi-fi. Depending on your data plan, you may appreciate taking advantage of this common perk. However, if you do decide to link up, make sure to take extra precautions. When you’re on a public network, your information is more vulnerable to theft. Hackers today can intercept the connection and access any information you send and receive. Never send any information or log into an account that contains anything you don’t want shared. This especially includes banking information, social security numbers, and addresses.


Freeze your credit
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit reports and helps to prevent thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. If a company attempts to access your credit report while your credit is frozen, they will be denied. A credit freeze does not negatively impact your credit score. It will also not prevent you from getting a job or a new credit card when you need it. In these cases, the credit bureaus simply call you to confirm that it is you requesting the inquiry. To implement a credit freeze, you will need to contact each credit bureau separately. There is usually a small fee to activate, but it can save you time and money in the long run.


Use a Password Manager
Do you get reminders to change your password every 90 days? How about the notice that the new password you created is not complex enough? They may be annoying, but they are great measures to protect your identity. And with password managers, they are much easier to handle. You can find information on several secure password managers online. They assist you with generating complex passwords that even the most experienced hacker will be unable to crack. And the best part is—the storage feature. You can have all your passwords in one place and only remember one “master” password to unlock them.


Steer clear of suspicious emails and websites
Be mindful when opening emails from senders you don’t recognize. They may contain links that will download harmful malware and viruses to your computer. If you receive a suspicious email requesting you to log in or provide personal information, discard it. If it appears to be from a company you do business with, i.e., a bank or credit card company, reach out to them by phone and confirm that the email is legitimate. You should also be cautious when opening an email from senders you do recognize if they contain links. If the link looks suspicious, try typing it into another browser instead of clicking within the email. If it is real, it will open, and if not, you will receive an error message.


Check your credit report regularly
Your credit report will show you any new accounts or lines of credit in your name. If an identity thief has opened accounts in your name, it’s important to act as soon as possible. Checking your credit report regularly will ensure you can address any suspicious activity within a reasonable timeframe. The longer a criminal has access to your identity, the more damage you will have to clean up. You are legally entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can access these at
AnnualCreditReport.com.
Protecting Yourself
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Protecting Yourself

Valley is dedicated to helping you safeguard your personal and confidential information. Here are some tips to help protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.

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