Identity theft sucks and it can cause major problems when you want to buy a house. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
1. Use a password manager add-on like LastPass.
It remembers all of your passwords for you and it can generate a new password for every website so if one website is breached it doesn't mean that your email and favorite password can be used on every other website by crooks. Also,it will auto-fill your password so that you can't be tracked by keyloggers who are installed on your computer when you don't know it and report all of your key strokes when you type. They even have a great mobile app that allows you to have a secure browser on your cell phone and it also auto-fills your passwords securely.
2. Where you can, use two-factor authentication.
Two factor authentication requires that an ever-changing password get entered in addition to your normal password. For example, if you want to log into your gmail account, you can use put in your email address, then your password, then you open up an authenticator such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator and put in the temporary second passcode. It changes every 30 seconds, so this keeps hackers out of your accounts. Many websites now support two-factor authentication like Gmail, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc.
3. Don't use the same password on every website!
I know it's inconvenient, but see step 1 above. When hackers get into one website's database, they will often get your username and password. Next they will go all over the web trying to use that username and password to log into other websites. You are making it too easy if you re-use your password!
4. Monitor and protect your credit.
- Get your official FREE ANNUAL credit report from the three bureaus. Don't get duped by the ads selling products. This is the official way to get your FREE ANNUAL credit report. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports
- Add a fraud-alert to your credit report so that no one can start credit without the creditor personally identifying you. Here's how: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
- Consider a credit freeze. Here's how: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
5. DON'T fall for email scams
- Phishing - these emails look like real emails from your bank, eBay, Facebook, etc. but most likely they're not. DO NOT click on the link and DO NOT enter your username and password. These companies are never going to randomly email you and tell you that you need to login to verify your account.
- Cute videos - often times these links to cute videos from your friends actually take you to websites where they run programs in the background that install hacker software on your computer. As tempting as it may be, skip the video.
- Relatives in trouble overseas or dead royalty from another country - Ever gotten those emails (and sometimes a phone call) that say that there is some distress and they need your help. Do not give them ANY information. They are just identity thieves trying to steal your identity and your money. You are not helping a relative or friend who is stuck and you are not going to get a large sum of money deposited into your account.
- Hover over the links! - on most computers if you simply place your mouse over the link but DO NOT CLICK ON IT, it will show you the address in the bottom left corner of your screen and you can see that this is not from a real company, but someone trying to steal your identity.
- Use an internet security program like ESet Internet Essentials to warn you when you are going to a suspicious website. https://www.eset.com/us/home/internet-security/
- Pop-up ads that look like Microsoft Security Essentials. This tells you that you have a problem on your machine and looks like a real computer pop-up, but it's actually just a pop-up ad from a website and now it's going to download a virus on your computer.
6. Phone scams
There are many phone scams going on that allow hackers and identity thieves into your life.
- Microsoft is not going to call you about a problem on your computer. Do not install anything. Do not give anyone who calls you remote control access to your computer.
- The IRS is not going to call you. All of their correspondence is done in writing!
- The new one is someone pretending to be a family member who needs money wired to them. DON'T!
- Calls from doctors, dentists, or other companies like life insurance. These are usually scams. Don't fall for them.