Our Wired World

Are You Putting Yourself at Risk for Identity Theft?

It’s often your own habits that make you susceptible

Safety.com offers an easy quiz, written by Jalesa Campbell, to measure your online and credit security.

Identity theft – it’s as easy as getting out of the car and dropping your driver’s license or being careless with your passwords. Best case – you hope for good luck, spend valuable time retracing steps and canceling accounts. Worse-case scenario, you suffer financial loss. Identity theft is that simple.

According to Sontiq, maker of IdentityForce, “one out of every 20 Americans is exposed to financial loss, suffering emotional stress, and spending hundreds of hours picking up the pieces.” Did you know that your habits can make you more susceptible?

It’s true, and that’s why we want to help you take a look at some potential ways you’re putting yourself at risk to have your identity stolen. Use this quiz to help you spot any blind spots and areas you can shore up to protect your personal information, family, and belongings.

*Quick Note – You’ll start off with 25 points total. At the end of the quiz, count the number of checks you’ve made and subtract that from 25 to get your final score. The higher your final score, the better your habits are.

Password Safety

Are you at risk?
☐ You use the same password for multiple accounts (1 pt.)
☐ Your passwords are taped to your computer or desk in plain sight (1 pt.)
☐ Your passwords have sensitive info. (name, birthdate, SSN#, etc.) (1 pt.)
☐ Your passwords don’t include numbers or special characters (1 pt.)
☐ You use “password” as an actual password (C’mon now!) (25 pt.)

Bad Habit #1 – You use the same password for multiple online accounts
If you’re using passwords that include a variation of your name, birthdate, SSN, or their personal or family information, you’re putting yourself at risk. If you include some of your personal information on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, cybercriminals could use those platforms to get some elements of your personal information. We’ve got some better solutions for you:

  • Create passwords with mixed cases. Using a variation of upper and lower case letters can help you strengthen your passwords.
  • Add in numbers and symbols if possible.

DigitalGuardian writes that “a combination of complexity and length is logically the best way to go about creating strong passwords.” Whenever you can, try to substitute numbers for letters such as “[email protected]” instead of “Lostatsea17”. The complexity of your password makes it harder for cybercriminals to guess, and combined with different passwords across your accounts, you’ll heighten your security.

Bad Habit #2 – Your passwords are as easy as 1-2-3
If you’re using passwords that include a variation of your name, birthdate, SSN, or ther personal or family information, you’re putting yourself at risk. If you include some of your personal information on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, cybercriminals could use those platforms to get some elements of your personal information. We’ve got some better solutions for you:

Document Safety

Are you at risk?
☐ You keep your social security card in your wallet or purse (1 pt.)
☐ You leave your bills in your purse or car (1 pt.)
☐ You don’t check your mail regularly (1 pt.)
☐ You leave your tax documents out at home (1 pt.)
☐ You toss ATM receipts into the trash can (1 pt.)

Bad Habit #3 – You keep your social security card in your wallet or purse.
It’s tempting to keep everything in one place, but your social security card should not be traveling with you. If you need your social security card to handle business, take it with you, and then store it at home in a secure location.
And while some of us are likely to check our email numerous times throughout the day, did you know that 98% of Americans check their mailboxes everyday? That’s good news, not only to keep you aware of any important documents that are being sent to you, but so you’re also aware of any important documents that are missing.

That’s right – while package theft is more prevalent in the news, mail theft occurs as well, as some criminals will steal letters to get your personal information. Be sure to keep important documents such as tax information stored away, such as in a locked file cabinet. And, if you hold on to ATM receipts, instead of tossing them in the trash, run them through a shredder to destroy your personal information.

Financial Tracking Safety

Are you at risk?
☐ You don’t check your bank account on a weekly basis(1 pt.)
☐ You don’t review your monthly bank statements when they come in the mail/email (1 pt.)
☐ You don’t check your credit card accounts on a monthly basis (1 pt.)

Bad Habit #4 – You don’t check your financial accounts often.
One of the ways that thieves test to see if they can draw money from financial accounts is through a test charge. If the charge goes through, they’ll likely go further, putting you into a financial mess. That’s why it’s important to check your bank and credit accounts often – we’d recommend checking your bank account at least once a week and your credit card accounts at least once a month. NerdWallet recommends checking your bank statement at least once a month. Look for any unexpected charges and inconsistencies. If your bank allows, see if you can set up alerts for whenever a transaction is made with your account.

Sensitive Information Disposal

Identity theft is that simple. One out of every 20 Americans is exposed to financial loss, suffering emotional stress, and spending hundreds of hours picking up the pieces...

Are you at risk?
☐ You carry expired credit cards in your wallet or purse (1 pt.)
☐ You throw away credit cards without cutting them up (1 pt.)
☐ You throw away credit card and billing statements without shredding them (1 pt.)

Bad Habit #5 – You hang on to expired or unused credit cards.
Once a credit card has expired, it’s time to destroy it, and those unsolicited credit cards that come in the mail, it’s good to destroy them too if you don’t plan to use them. Hanging onto these cards or simply tossing them in the trash can give criminals who dumpster-dive easy access to your accounts or the ability to open a new line of credit in your name.

  • Cut up your expired or unused credit cards. NerdWallet recommends cutting through the EMV chip on plastic cards and cutting through a few more times before disposing.
  • Shred them. If you have a shredder that can handle it, feed any expired or unused credit cards through the machine. If you’re looking for a shredder that can handle credit cards, this shredder by Bonsaii is an Amazon Choice product.

Email Safety

Are you at risk?
☐ You click on links from unknown email addresses (1 pt.)
☐ You’re quick to send personal information via email (birthday, login information, etc.) (1 pt.)
☐ You use the same email address for banking and social media (1 pt.)
☐ You have old or unused email accounts (1 pt.)
☐ You don’t update your password regularly on your email accounts (1 pt.)

Bad Habit #6 – You’re quick to respond to emails without doing a close check.
Email scams have become much more prevalent today with many malicious tactics to include phishing, social engineering, and others. If you’re quick to open and response to emails without taking a closer look, here are some things you need to be on the lookout for:

  • Misspellings and grammar errors. This is one of the most obvious signs of an email scam – there are misspellings and grammar errors. You’ll even sometimes notice this when you hover over the sender’s email address. This is an easy red flag to catch.
  • Requesting personal information. If the sender is asking for you to update your account, banking information, address, or any other personal data, this is something to look further into. Most organizations will not ask you to do this via email.
  • A sense of urgency. This is another common aspect of email scams – the sender will make the email sound urgent and may request money to be wired or personal information. Take notice and do not respond.

Also, if you have any email accounts that you’re not currently using, you should go ahead and close those accounts. Make sure to keep your passwords updated regularly on any email accounts you have.

Social Media Safety

Are you at risk?
☐ You share your travel plans on social media (1 pt.)
☐ You share photos of your children on social media (1 pt.)
☐ You participate in Facebook surveys (High school pics, personality tests, etc.) (1 pt.)
☐ You accept friend requests/followers from people you don’t know (1 pt.)

Bad Habit #7 – You’re quick to share personal information on social media
While adding your birthday, email address, home address, and photos to social media can help others to get to know you better, you could open yourself up to identity theft. As we mentioned earlier, criminals can take pieces of your personal information that they find on the Internet and use them to their advantage.

Also be careful with the photos you’re posting, be it photos of children or your location. Never share when you’re not home or are planning to be away from home, as that can also open you up to burglary and potential identity theft.

Finally, did you know that taking quizzes or playing games on Facebook can also open you up to identity theft? According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), “[the] quizzes ask seemingly silly or meaningless questions, but scammers can use that information for nefarious purposes.” While you might be able to find out which animal matches your personality, you really should think twice before taking any social media quizzes.

How Did You Do?

Excellent! You’re on it! (21 – 25 pts.)
You’re already using good habits when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft. Keep up the excellent work.

You’ve got some good practices going! (16 – 20 pts.)
Looks like you’re doing fairly well with safeguarding your information – you don’t use the password “password” (at least we hope not). Now it’s time to adopt some more.

Okay, looks like there’s room for improvement (11 – 15 pts.)
You’re on the fence – but at least you’re now aware of some of the habits you can work on.

You’ve got quite a few bad habits (6 – 10 pts.)
Not a good look – we’ve got some improving to do.

Time for a wake-up call (0 – 5 pts.)
Don’t beat yourself up – that’s why we’ve created this post to help. Start implementing some of our tips today.

Take our post as a wake-up call to identifying any bad habits you might have and correcting them. If you want additional help with monitoring your personal information, check out our list of the best identity theft protection services and their plans.

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