It’s a scary thought, but it’s pretty easy to expose yourself to identity theft, even accidentally. How?
You’re Oversharing Online
It’s very normal to share nearly everything online. Vacations, birthdays, particularly well-plated food—it all gets posted to social media.
However, a lot of those details people post about themselves to social media are valuable to criminals who want to break into accounts. Security questions are commonly things like “What was your mother’s maiden name?” or “What was the name of your first pet?”
Also, keep in mind that when employees of banks or online shopping sites ask questions to verify your identity, it isn’t uncommon for them to ask for birthdays, addresses, your most commonly shopped-at stores, and stuff like that.
Many of those kinds of details are available on a person’s social media. The less you share with the world, the better.
You Aren’t Checking Your Bank Accounts
The earlier you detect identity theft, the better. Even if you have all your bills set to auto-pay and you’re getting your paycheque direct deposited, it’s important to take a look at your financial accounts regularly. Make sure you know and understand every withdrawal and charge. Of course, you can always invest in an app that helps you keep track of your spending, like these.
You’re Talking to Sneaky Callers
So, you get a call from the CRA. Or your bank. Or maybe even your kid’s pee wee soccer league. They just need some information from you to verify your identity, like a SIN. Or your address. Or driver’s license. Or account number. Or all kinds of things.
But are you sure that the person on the other line is who they say they are? It’s very common for scammers to fish for information in this way (or phish, as it’s called in the industry). It’s better to hang up and call whomever back from a number you know is real. After all, if your bank is calling about an issue, it should be easy to dial their publically listed number and speak to someone about said issue.
You Reuse Passwords
It’s difficult to come up with a long, tough-to-guess password. So you think about reusing it. After all, you have lots of accounts to keep track of, right?
The truth is that reusing passwords, no matter how good they are, is playing with fire. When you have one password that you use with ten different services, you’re trusting that every single one of those services won’t get hacked or accidentally leak customer’s passwords. And leaks happen all the time.
So don’t reuse passwords. And if you need help thinking of a new password, try this trick.
You Aren’t Shredding Your Mail
Even in this hyper digital world, sometimes the old tricks are the most effective. If you’ve thrown out bank statements, utility bills, health insurance paperwork, and thinks like that, you’re leaving valuable information that can expose you to identify theft by the side of the road.
Shred it instead. And if you don’t want to buy a shredder (they cost between $40 and $100), bring your documents into the office and shred them there.
The Bottom Line
Identify theft is no joke. Recovering from identity theft is like having a part-time job for six months. It’s better protect yourself by stopping these bad habits.