Tips to Protect Your Identity

There's just some things that you can no longer go without in these times of theft and scams, and the coming crisis.  You will not regret being prepared. I decided to share with you my best tips on protecting your identity. It will save you a LOT of trouble and we sure don't need any added weight of stress in times like these.

First of all, it doesn't matter if you don't use the internet.  Yes, I'm talking to Amish, Mennonites and others who think they are "safe" from digital theft by simply not using the technology.  They're not safe, actually they're more at risk of it!  All it takes is someone taking over your identity and creating accounts in your name, anywhere literally - which can be done online in many cases.  You may not even know this is happening if you don't have the proper safeguards in place and you will fall victim to months-to-years-long fight for clearing the mess up.

Here are some of my top tips to protect your identity:

1.  Buy Identity theft insurance!  - You simply can NOT go without this.  It is vital in these times and believe me, you don't want to go through the stress, the court process and all the calls and wait times to fight to get your identity back once stolen.  Not to mention the money you will spend doing so.  Paying a good company to do this for you and monitor your identity is going to pay returns in more ways than one and protections are about a $1 million per person in your family.

2.  Make sure your WiFi is security-enabled! - This one is something most people don't pay attention to but should be the first layer of protection for internet coming in through your home.  Get a good router and make sure have good security (WPA3 or even WPA2) AND a good password for your network.  You should have a password that is more than 14 characters because you just can't afford a hack of your WiFi.  Having a router that gives you a notification when someone gets on your network is crucial too.  Keep up with technology to try and stay further ahead of the thieves!

3.  Use only a limited guest network for your work computers or phones! - Don't let your husband's employer-provided work computer or phone have full access to your home network.  Create a separate guest network and password for these, and also of course for guests you may have staying with you.

4.  Have an anti-virus security program with firewall for your computers! - I think most people have this and you can get good ones for free but also better ones by paying a yearly premium.  And definitely keep them updated and do scans often, if not daily depending upon internet use.

5.  Use a VPN! - With all the spying going on with companies wanting your data and privacy, you need a VPN while being online, on your computer, tablet and phone.  This is especially crucial when you are traveling or staying in a hotel or Airbnb.

6.  Use Hard Passwords! - Don't use passwords that are less than 8 characters, but I actually recommend passwords that are 12+ characters for all your accounts or logins online.  Also, make sure your passwords are a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols.  You can use a password book to help you remember your passwords or other tools, but definitely have a backup.

7.  Backup your hard drive! - You can't rely on your computer always working and never having a problem that could destroy your files or even a hack that wipes your drive clean or even holds your drive hostage.  I recommend having an external hard drive and even maybe a backup to your backup.  If you have things that simply can't be replaced in the event of a fire, natural disaster or theft, then you need to keep those digital items in another location.  I recommend using a cloud storage that isn't hooked to your computer and can't be wiped if your computer is hacked.  There are many to choose from, so do your research.

8.  Have multiple email addresses! - Don't use just ONE email!  That is dangerous, because what happens when that is hacked or even if an error happens with your provider and you can't access your email?  Have one email for things that are more susceptible to hacking like mailing lists, store logins, social, etc.  Then, have another email that you never give out to anyone that you use for banking, government-logins, etc.  Basically, a private one and then a public one.  Also, I would recommend that your verification email be another email with another provider.

9.  Use multiple browsers! - Use a good browser for browsing that doesn't track you and then use another one for things you log in to.  Let me explain - so say you want to go read the news, use browser #1 for that, but don't use that same browser to log in to your email account or social media account or you will be open for tracking.  You can get more sophisticated with this and there are some great YT videos on how to do so with Rob Braxman.  He's a wealth of information but he does use some substitute curse words, i.e. he hates Fakebook LOL!

10.  Have paper and digital copies of payments and statements! - You may need to prove you paid a certain bill or have a certain account or even that you had money in a bank account.  Could you do that?  Make sure to have at least 3 months of digital and paper copies of all your payments and statements for banks, mortgage, loans, credit cards, insurance, etc.  Be ready to give PROOF in the event things get really bad!

11.  Monitor Your Credit Reports! - Even though you may have ID theft insurance, you still should monitor your credit reports yourself.  Fix any errors as they come and dispute anything that isn't yours.  Even if you don't want to use credit, you should know what your score is because insurance companies and even landlords look at it nowadays and it is important.  That's why I like to use credit to keep my score up and show constant use and payments.

12.  Keep a watch on your Social Security statement! - you may not work, but you should still keep a watch on your social security statement each year, and also your husband's statement 1-2 times a year to make sure the income reporting is correct and that no one is taking out disability or anything in your name.  You can now do this online through the SS website.  You need to create an account, so a thief doesn't do so in your name!  There are people who had issues with someone else getting their benefits and even some that had to pay back benefits they weren't entitled to because the SS office got it wrong.

I've probably missed something, but these are the ones that come to my mind when thinking of tips I can give my readers that will provide you with protection in these dangerous and unsure times.  Just like when you have mice, you have to go fill all the holes to find out where they're coming in from - the same goes for technology.  However, it is always better to fill the holes BEFORE they get in and save yourself a world of trouble!

*There is more you can do, such as having fraud alerts on on your bank accounts, having your credit frozen with all 3 bureaus, 2-factor authentication, etc. but this list above will get you started on the right track!