Expert QA

By Steven J.J. Weisman for Life & Beauty Weekly

Answer: We lock up our houses, cars, and even our gear at the gym, but give little thought to our most valuable, intangible possessions: our identities. Here are 10 tips for how to prevent identity theft.

  1. Don’t give personal information over the phone to someone you didn’t call.
  2. Never give personal information solicited via email or a text message, even if it seems to be from your bank or another place you trust – it could be a “phishing” scam by an identity thief. To double-check, call the company at a number that you know is accurate.
  3. Don’t download files from people you don’t know and be wary of links that could contain malware. Even if they come in emails from friends, your friend’s email account could have been hacked.
  4. Shred all financial records you no longer need.
  5. Use antivirus and anti-malware tools on all of your electronic devices (including your smart phone), and update the software regularly.
  6. Create strong passwords on all your devices by using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
  7. Limit the information you use on social networking sites. Too much information online makes you an easy target for identity thieves. And be careful about clicking links on Facebook unless you know the site of origin.
  8. Carefully evaluate the privacy settings on your social network sites, and set them at levels with which you’re comfortable. For instance, it’s a good idea to share photos of your kids with your friends only — or not to post them at all.
  9. When using WiFi, use an encryption mechanism on your wireless router.
  10. Only obtain apps from legitimate sources (like iTunes), since unknown sources can contain malware.

Steven J.J. Weisman is an Amherst, MA-based attorney and the author of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit: Everything You Need to Know About Identity Theft, Credit Cards, Credit Repair, and Credit Reports.

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