Dennis Haggerty explains that ID theft is a $13 billion problem, with more than 1.4 million Americans — or 1 in every 200 — reporting identity theft in 2021, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a department of the Federal Trade Commission. Total identity fraud damages topped $13 billion that year. Dennis Haggerty, president, and owner of Car Dealer Benefits suggest ways consumers can avoid identity theft.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personally identifiable information to commit fraud or deception, usually for financial gain. Dennis Haggerty lists ten ways to prevent identity theft.
Collect Mail Everyday
Some identity thieves steal bank statements or medical information from your mailbox. They then fill out requests in your name to reroute your mail to them, he says.
When you freeze your credit report, no one can look at it, which means no one can get a loan or open a bank account in your name. You can freeze your reports for free by contacting each of the three credit bureaus online. If you are applying for a loan or bank account yourself, you’ll need to unfreeze your credit temporarily, he says.
Review Financial Documents Frequently
Review your bank and credit card statements frequently. Call the institution if you notice any discrepancies or fail to receive your statement on time, he says.
Shred Sensitive Documents
Shred sensitive documents before throwing them away to prevent potential thieves from accessing them in your trash can, he says.
Avoid Using the Same Password
Dennis Haggerty says to avoid using the same password for every account you have and avoid using key dates, children’s names, or pet names as passwords. The most secure passwords are unique and at least 15 characters long. A good password manager can help you keep track of your unique passwords.
Install Antivirus Software
Choose and install good antivirus software that also prevents malware. The software will prevent hackers from accessing personal information on your computer.
Review Credit Reports
Check your credit reports at least annually to ensure no unusual activity appears. Accessing your reports without the score is free, he says.
Wipe Electronics Before Donating
Deleting files from computers and tablets before giving them away isn’t enough to prevent hacking. You also need to use overwriting software to obliterate the data, he says.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Set up two-factor authentication on accounts to increase security. With two-factor authentication, you’ll use biometrics or enter a code received on your cell phone in addition to your password.
Opt-Out of Prescreened Offers
If you receive prescreened offers in the mail, thieves can steal them and apply for credit in your name. Also, shred any offers you receive, Haggerty says.
An identity theft protection service can help you lower your damages and recover more quickly if your identity is stolen, he says.