Are you high risk for identity theft?

Young adults ages 18-24 are most at risk for identity theft and often targeted by people they know. But, it’s vital to understand and recognize that identity theft can happen to anyone—even you! Identity theft may not seem like a big deal until it happens to you. It can damage your credit report and financial history as a young adult. Knowing this, it’s crucial to safeguard your financial information—but what does that mean? Here are five ways you can keep yourself from being at risk for identity theft:

Don’t leave out credit or debit cards

It’s as simple as it sounds—don’t leave your credit or debit cards lying out, whether you’re at home or in public. For example, you’re at a restaurant and pay for the check. You leave the table for a few minutes to run to the bathroom—in that short period, someone could easily and quickly snap a photo of your credit or debit card and use that information to their advantage. You’d never know, either, until you check your bank account, your account is drained, and there are dozens of unfamiliar charges. An easy way to combat that is by putting your credit or debit card in your wallet as soon as you’re finished using it.

Don’t leave your wallet in an unlocked room or office

You may think your office is one of the safest places to leave your wallet, and that could be the case—but only if your office is locked. Anyone could walk by while you’re gone and grab your wallet that contains sensitive information, from your credit and debit card numbers, driver’s license number, and more. It seems tedious, but if you’re leaving your office, even for just a second, be sure to lock the door if you can. If you can’t, bring your wallet with you.

Safeguard personal documents

Lock up and protect any documents that contain personal information like bank account, Social Security, and personal identification (PIN) numbers. Your best bet is to store them in a safe deposit box at your financial institution or credit union. If you have copies of those documents or want to keep the original documents with you, purchase a fireproof safe for at-home storage. You can purchase a fireproof safe with a locking mechanism for less than $50. Not only does it protect you from identify theft, but it also safeguards those documents in the event of an emergency, like fires or floods. And, be sure to shred receipts, credit card offers, and bank statements at least once per month.

Keep your guard up

Never provide financial information over the phone, via text, or email. One scam on the rise, called spoofing, allows fraudsters to fake the number they’re calling from by making a fake number appear on your caller ID. It can be easy to fall for, as the number could appear to be your bank’s phone number. They may say there’s a charge on your account you need to verify, or you may receive a fake text message. Remember, financial institutions (or any legitimate organization) will never ask for your Social Security number, card number, PIN, CVV, or expiration date.

Monitor your accounts

In addition to protecting your information, it’s necessary to monitor it, too. Checking your bank account or credit card activity often can help you recognize identity theft sooner. If you notice any suspicious activity, it’s a good idea to freeze or lock your debit or credit card so no one can use it, and contact your credit union or financial institution immediately. They can ensure you aren’t penalized for these transactions, help you get your money back, and ensure your card is replaced promptly. You should also periodically check your credit report to ensure no one opened any new accounts in your name. As a Georgia resident, you can request free copies of your credit reports through each of the three credit bureaus for free up to three times per year.

It may seem scary, but protecting yourself from identity theft is a necessary measure in today’s world. Your financial history is crucial in nearly every aspect of your life, and it’s critical to ensure no one gains access to personal information to potentially damage that. By implementing these measures, you’re taking control of your finances and preventing yourself from becoming someone’s next target.

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