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Identity theft printed on shreds of paper

Identity theft is a problem and security breaches seem to pop up in the news every other week. In 2016 alone, over 15 million Americans fell prey to identity theft. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has steps in place to help consumers recover, there’s nothing better than preventing the problem before it occurs. We know figuring out how to prevent identity theft can be tough, so here are our top six tips for protecting you and your family.

How to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Keep SSNs Secret

Your social security number (SSN) is like a key, except instead of granting access to your home, it unlocks your entire financial history and identity. While there are valid reasons an organization could need your SSN (credit card or auto loan applications, for instance), you may be able to opt out in some situations. If your SSN is necessary, make sure proper security protocols are in place to protect it. Avoid giving out your social security number in an email or over the phone, and don’t submit it online if the website is not secure. A secure website URL starts with https.

Regularly Monitor Your Credit

Catch fraudsters before they wreck your credit score or rack up debt by regularly monitoring your credit report. Whether you believe your identity has been compromised or not, you are entitled to request a free credit report from each credit bureau at any time. By spacing your requests throughout the year, you can check your report about every four months and stay ahead of potential fraud.

Beware of Scams

Odds are, a Nigerian prince doesn’t need your help or access to your bank account. Certain scams such as this are well known, but others are trickier to identify. As a rule of thumb, never give out personal identifiable information to anyone you don’t know. Never give it out over email, and only give it over the phone if you initiated the call and are confident that the person or company you called is legitimate.

When in doubt, check out common scams on sites like Snopes or compare your situation against these warning signs from the FTC. If you are the victim of full-fledged or attempted fraud, file a complaint with the FTC.

Use Secure Passwords

Passwords are a simple but effective means of protecting you and your loved ones’ identities. To make your online experience easier, some internet browsers will remember your passwords and autofill them. This feature makes having a secure password on your devices incredibly important. Steer clear of obvious passwords such as those including your address, birthday, or other personal information.

Protect Important Documents

Ideally, personal documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, financial information, and passports should be kept in a safety deposit box or secure place at home when not in use—not in your wallet or purse—and definitely not in your glove box where they could get lost or stolen. For example, if someone were to steal your wallet that holds your banking account number, pin, ATM, and ID, they would have all the necessary information to access your account.

Be Careful With Old Documents and Devices

Don’t just throw away old documents. Shred them or tear them up until they’re unrecognizable. Anything from billing statements to old credit cards can contain potentially threatening sensitive information. If you don’t have access to a shredder, follow the double-bag trick. Tear up the document and split it between two trash bags. This makes putting your information back together too complicated for most identity thieves.

Likewise, devices (smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) can contain everything from saved passwords to tax records. Before trashing or reselling old devices, restore them to factory settings and wipe the hard drive.

Put these tips into action to help prevent identity theft in your family. Doing so can help protect you from the headache of a stolen identity and the consequences of compromised credit. In the meantime, let Direct Auto & Life Insurance offer you protection the way we know best — with an affordable auto insurance policy. Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT to learn more or visit a location near you today.

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