Today, Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, hits theaters and tells the story of a man whose identity gets stolen by a seemingly harmless woman and the long (and wacky) road to justice.
While Bateman’s predicament is hilarious on the big screen, in real life identity theft is no laughing matter. It affects millions of Americans each year and can take a lifetime to remedy.
For those looking to protect their identity and avoid Bateman’s fate, TrustedID—the nation’s most comprehensive identity protection and privacy service—offers some great tips:
- Secure all of your devices. With smartphones and tablets, the whole idea is to benefit from quick, instant access to your useful information. This means if your mobile device goes wandering, someone else might be a finger swipe away from information meant for your eyes only. Be it a PIN, a clever password or zigzag swipe pattern, load it on your device and lock it up.
- Wipe clean your OLD devices. When you’re upgrading or getting rid of old devices, whether you decide to sell, donate or toss your used items, it’s important that you remove ALL of your data. Simply deleting files is not enough. Use disk wipe services for laptops, and install wiping software on your smartphone to remove any stored data.
- Remove your name from data broker lists. A ton of unwanted mail starts with data brokers. These personal information mongers collect and sell your personal information to any company wanting to mail anyone and everyone. Regain control of your personal information by having your name and address removed from data brokers’ marketing lists with our MailStop Shield Service. This reduces unwanted mail and protects your privacy.
- Restrict access to your info on social media. There are constantly new dangers on social networks. We feel encouraged to share more and more information online every year, and privacy risks are immense. Pay close attention to your privacy settings at least once a month, and don’t “overshare” with complete strangers.
- Don’t give out your zip code to retailers. Not even if they ask with a smile. Knowing your zip code allows retailers to easily find your entire address so they can send you unwanted mail. By giving out personal information such as your email, phone number and zip code, you also pave the way for identity thieves.
- Put a Google Alert on your name. It sounds very egotistical, but it makes perfect sense. Set up Google Alerts to track your name. This way you can monitor search engine results and learn what others can find out about you. If you discover public information that could damage your reputation or puts your privacy at risk, contact the source and ask them to remove the information.
- Create Pa$$_w0rDz! like never before. There is no better time for updating or changing your passwords than the beginning of a new year. In 2012, large companies like Global Payments, Zappos and LinkedIn became victims of data breaches, exposing sensitive information of millions of users. While any site that requires a password is at risk, you can reduce this risk by creating strong, complex passwords that are difficult to hack, even for a professional.