In today’s digital age, identity theft is a serious concern. Many consumers are understandably concerned about their personal data potentially being exposed or even being targeted online specifically through various scams.

How to Avoid Identity Theft

The best way to catch identity theft is to stay aware of what is happening within your accounts. Keeping an eye on account activity, especially if you have more than one account, can help you identify potential fraud that may slip under the radar. A great way to stay on top of your accounts is to set up alerts where possible.

Monitor your financial accounts

Visit your online financial accounts and set up any alert features they may offer so you can always stay on top of what’s going on in your accounts.

Sign up for SMS alerts

By signing up for SMS alerts, you can receive text messages of any transactions happening on your card almost immediately after they occur. You can sign up for these alerts through your financial institution, or by enrolling through the card issuers’ website (Visa, MasterCard, Discover). At Jovia, you can enroll in text alerts for both debit cards and credit cards.

Monitor your credit

You can check your credit report to help identify any unusual activity that may occur, such as new accounts or credit inquiries. You can access your credit report by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) or by signing up for a credit monitoring service like FraudScout™ through Jovia.

Remember, Jovia and other reputable companies will never ask you to provide your personal information, such as account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, debit or credit card numbers via email, phone call or text message.

For more information on how to keep your personal data secure, check out our other guide with Personal Cyber Security Tips, here.

What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen

Even with the most proactive protection, identity theft can still occur. If you have been the victim of identity theft, it’s important to act quickly. If your information has recently been stolen, here are some steps you can take to mitigate loss and help prevent future compromises.

1. Stay alert for notifications

If you have been part of a data breach, the company that has been breached is required to send you a notice. Read through the information you receive, and carefully consider any suggestions they may provide.

2. Beware of communications from unknown lenders

You should also stay alert if you receive any communications from an unknown lender or the IRS regarding your taxes. You should not respond or reply to an unknown lender unless you verify that your loan has been transferred. If you receive any notice from the IRS regarding your taxes, be sure to consult your accountant or tax attorney right away.

3. Initiate a fraud alert

It may be wise to set up a fraud alert. When you request a fraud alert be added with any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian), the bureau you contact will notify the other two and alerts will be added with those bureaus automatically. A fraud alert will warn lenders that your information may be compromised, and you may be a fraud victim. This alert means that any potential lender should contact you before extending any credit or loan in your name. This fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days, and you will need to renew the fraud alert when it expires at the end of 90 days.

4. Update your login credentials

If your username and password were compromised in any way, be sure to change your password for the affected site and on any other site that might share the same password. The best way to mitigate risk is to use a unique password for every site you use and to take advantage of multi-factor authentication when available. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a method used to ensure that users are who they say they are. Users are required to provide at least two pieces of evidence to prove their identity. For example, you log in to your account with a password on your computer and then have to approve the log in on your mobile device.

5. Use different passwords for different logins

Consider using Password Management software, like LastPass or 1Password to keep track of unique, complex passwords for each of your accounts.

6. Place a freeze or lock on your credit file

A security freeze will prevent a potential lender from accessing your credit report by “freezing” or “locking” access to your credit file. Without access your credit file, most lenders will not open any new accounts in your name. While it is an effective way to stop credit inquiries to prevent further damage as a victim of identity theft, your credit file will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. You could temporarily lift, permanently unfreeze, or even grant access only to a particular lender. However, each credit bureau would need to be contacted and have different methods for adding or removing a freeze/lock on your credit file. So, it’s wise to consider your options and your future borrowing needs before taking this action.

7. Stay informed

Visit the FTC's identity theft website to learn what steps to take in response to proven identity theft and stay aware of current events. News reports are sometimes the first way people learn they could be impacted.

Identity theft is certainly scary but taking these steps to mitigate the situation can help minimize both the risk and impact.