Over the last decade, identity theft and fraud has become one of the fastest growing crimes. In the U.S. alone, there are over 12 million fraud victims annually for a loss of more than 26 billion dollars, according to Statistic Brain. In addition, CardHub reports that credit and debit card crimes count for roughly 11 billion of this amount.
You probably understand the basics when it comes to keeping your identity safe; it’s common sense to keep your social security and credit card numbers secret and not to provide any personal details to people you don’t know. However, with the rapid changes in technology over the last few years, you may not be aware of some of the new measures that must be taken to keep your identity secure from fraud. Not to worry, we’ve put together a few easy ways you can keep your finances secure from would be criminals.
Mobile payment or digital wallet services, like Apple Pay, are still relatively new, but are catching on very quickly because of the high level of security these services offer to their users. Case in point: about 3.6 million people have used Apple Pay at least once since its release in October 2014, claims PYMNTS. The main feature of Apple Pay is that it digitizes the credit or debit card chip and pin and communicates directly with a retailer’s point of sale system, which means sensitive information is not seen or handled by any people during the payment process. If this doesn’t sound safe enough, Apple Pay adds an additional layer of security with a two-factor authentication process. Your iPhone 6s uses the fingerprint sensor to ensure that only you can activate Apple Pay to make a purchase.
Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
It’s now second nature to jump online to check your bank balance or make a bill payment from your smartphone. However, if you don’t verify that the network you’re on is secure, accessing sensitive data while on a public Wi-Fi network can put you at risk. For people with Internet networking skills, it’s fairly easy to set up a wireless network in a public space, name it “Free Wi-Fi” and start collecting the data of anyone that joins. This is why it’s important for you to double check with the employees of the coffee shop, hotel or any other public space you’re in, and verify which Wi-Fi network is theirs.
If you’re tech savvy, you can take extra measures by setting up a virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts your data and makes it more difficult for potential hackers to get their eyes on your personal information. If you don’t have the skills to set up a VPN yourself, there are numerous services you can pay for, such as Private Internet Access or NordVPN.
Another security measure you can take is to ensure that every site you visit uses the https identifier rather than the less secure http by using a browser extension. For example, HTTPS Everywhere makes sure your data is encrypted no matter which website you are visiting.
Check Your Credit File
Even if you act cautiously and take measures to keep your identity safe, it’s still a good idea to check in on your credit file every so often to verify that there isn’t any suspicious activity happening. You can receive a free credit report from a nationwide credit reporting company once a year. Since there are a few different companies that provide this service (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), you can theoretically check your credit every three to four months.
If you don’t want to take the time to check your credit reports yourself, you have the option to pay for identity protection services, like ProtectMyID, that monitor your Experian credit report and alert you if any suspicious activity takes place.