In the days of the Internet, identity protection is becoming ever more important. Credit monitoring services make this much easier to do. Read on for further information. ‘Identity protection’ means a security measure that stops or prevents personal information being seen by the wrong person, for example security questions, PINs and credit monitoring services. This personal information can include:
- National Insurance numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Any bank account information
If an unauthorised person receives this information, you could be facing serious debt as a result of identity theft. Therefore, it is very important to take security measures before you are faced with these problems. Who has thousands, or even millions of pounds to spare for the benefit of thieves?
Identity Protection Measures on the Internet
Online identity protection measures are usually seen with online banking and digital transactions i.e. online shopping. Whenever you shop on secure websites, there should be a green padlock (or gold for Internet Explorer) at the top of the screen. This means that the connection is secure. It also means that a Domain-Validated (DV) certificate is being used. In essence, the website that you are using belongs to the website it claims to be. Your personal information is encrypted as it goes through the server; this means that your personal information is being protected from hackers or third parties.
Protecting your Identity Yourself
Identity protection doesn’t necessarily mean software that protects your information. You can protect yourself by taking a few simple precautions. For example, you could:
- Using your bank cards with trusted merchants
- Using PayPal online
- Shredding sensitive information that you no longer need e.g. bank statements and PIN codes. Some thieves will go through your rubbish to try and find this kind of information
- Using credit monitoring services
- Clear logins and passwords often, especially if you’re on a public computer
- Change passwords often
- Keep an eye out for phishing. This can be in the form of emails or webpages that look like they’ve come from genuine banks
- Monitor your bank statements closely, mobile or online banking is useful for this
- Install a computer programme like LifeLock for extra protection
These simple measures can ensure your protection from identity theft and maybe saving you hundreds of thousands of pounds. Of course, putting some or even all of these in place won’t stop all possibilities of identity theft or fraud, but they will reduce the risk dramatically.
Credit Monitoring Services Explained
‘Credit monitoring services’ have been mentioned here a few times already, but what actually are they? Credit monitoring services are offered by credit bureaus and credit management platforms like My Credit Monitor. Services like this one monitor your credit report and notify you of any significant change, for things like:
- Updated credit scores
- Added accounts
- Judgements filed against you
Credit monitoring services are important so you can keep an eye on your accounts. The first thing an identity thief will do with your details is try and take out loans and other credit cards in your name and if you’re not watching your accounts carefully, you could end up having to pay a lot of money to the debt collector. If something happens that you didn’t authorise, you know your identity has been stolen and you can notify your bank as soon as possible.
Ways Credit Monitoring Services notify you of Changes
When you sign up to a credit monitoring service, you are usually asked of ways that they can notify you of changes. Alerts can be sent by text to your phone, by email or by telephone. It is best that you choose the option that you check the most and is most convenient for you. For this reason, most people opt for the text message option.
What to Do If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Identity theft is quite common; therefore it is important to know what to do in the event of identity theft.
- Put a fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit reports
- Contact your bank and/or card issuer and report any stolen documents (like cards, passports etc.)
- Alert your local police force
You will be advised from your bank and the police what measures to take next. Your accounts will probably be frozen to avoid further theft. For more information, see Action Fraud.
Overall, identity theft (or fraud) can be prevented with some simple precautions, but not completely stopped. Protecting your identity is very important, especially in this age of computers where every detail of information can be saved to many different places at the touch of a button. Monitoring your finances and credit scores very closely can help to prevent these issues. You wouldn’t leave the house with all the windows and doors open, would you?