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Identity theft protection - 12 tips from American Family


Identity theft can happen any time of the year, but tax time can be a particularly vulnerable time, when an identity thief can steal your social security number, file a tax return in your name and claim a fraudulent tax refund. Follow these tips to help proactively protect your identity.

Identity theft is never a fun situation, and by taking proactive measures to protect personal information, you can help prevent identity theft. Consider putting these 12 simple identity protection tips into practice.

Create strong passwords

Thieves love passwords because they're the keys to personal information. Use various passwords for different accounts, and include a mix of numbers, characters and symbols. Avoid keeping password information on phones, where a theft could expose them to the thief. Keep passwords elsewhere, such as written on a piece of paper and tucked away in a safe spot. 

Be smart about updating passwords

Hackers are savvy about clever password tricks. Pair that with their advanced hardware and software, and simply updating a password regularly might not be enough. The best thing to do? See tip number one and create a really random password. Experts do agree that if an individual has the slightest suspicion he or she has been hacked, passwords should be changed as quickly as possible.

Check your credit report

Monitoring credit reports allows a detailed look at credit history. Once you get a credit report, which can be ordered for free once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), go over it thoroughly to see if any fraudulent transactions or accounts are listed. If you do notice any debts that aren’t yours or accounts you didn’t open, follow these steps to report identity theft.

Review your accounts

Get in the habit of carefully looking over bank and credit card accounts every month. If you notice anything suspicious, call your bank or credit card company right away.

Don’t over-share on social media

Steer clear of posting personal information. Thieves are hunting social media for easy prey, and unassuming info like an email address, birthdate and or even children’s names are used for scamming and account theft.

Shield your computer

Keep personal and financial information secure on computers with firewall, virus and spyware protection software. Just make sure they are being downloaded from a trusted source.

Don’t take the bait

Scam artists love to “phish,” which means they catch victims by pretending to be trustworthy sources like banks, stores, government agencies and so on. Most commonly, people phish others over the phone and through emails, but will attempt though regular mail, too. Legitimate companies don’t typically request information in this way, so ask questions when a business calls, and never give out personal information over the phone or email. Here are more tips on how to avoid phishing.

Safeguard your Social Security card

Never give out your entire Social Security number over the phone or online. Usually, a company will only ask for the last four digits, so if someone asks for the full number, be wary. Also, avoid routinely carrying the card in a wallet in case it’s lost or stolen.

Don’t leave a paper trail

Identity thieves have no problem dumpster-diving for personal info. Mail with private information, like a bank account or credit card statement, should be ripped up or, better yet, shredded.

Be aware of credit card skimming

A “skimmer” is essentially a card reader that grabs the data off a card’s magnetic stripe, making it easy for a thief to create cloned cards or break into bank accounts to steal money. Always keep an eye on cards, or pay with cash. Skimmers can hide in many places.

Consider identity theft insurance

Identity theft protection coverage helps you get back on track when victimized by identity scammers. It’s a smart, simple and affordable way to financially recover and get support when needed most, especially when it comes to contacting credit reporting companies, law enforcement, etc. Contact an American Family agent to talk about how to add identity theft coverage to homeowners or renters policies.

Calculate your risk

Use this ID Theft risk calculator and discover the potential risk for being victim to identity theft.

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About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agency owners in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents. Web; Facebook; Twitter