How Do I Prevent Identity Theft Online?

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Big data breaches make headlines more often than we’d like, making it clear that the companies we trust with our information can’t protect us from an attack. That makes it our responsibility to take actions that will help prevent identity theft. Knowing what to look for—and what you can do about identity theft—is the best way to keep your personal data out of the hands of hackers.

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What is identity theft? 

Identity theft is when someone accesses your personal information and uses it for financial gain. Personal data or financial information that is entered online can be a smorgasbord for identity thieves on the prowl.

The stolen information can be anything from your full name and birthdate to your Social Security number and banking information. Identity thieves can use this data to tap into your bank account, open new credit accounts in your name, or charge up your existing credit cards.

How to spot identity theft

The bad news is that identity thieves are sneaky, and identity theft can happen without much fanfare. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for so you can stop identity theft before it takes a big toll on your finances.

Know your finances

Make it a habit to regularly check your credit report, checking and savings account statements, phone bills, utility bills, loan account statements, credit card bills, and government benefit statements.

Recognize the warning signs

As you review your accounts, keep an eye out for new applications made in your name, unauthorized charges or withdrawals, notices from debt collection agencies, bills for accounts you didn’t open, and unusual activity on your Social Security number.

How to prevent identity theft

The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize your risk of identity theft—especially when you’re online.


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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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