Over 15 million people become victims of financial identity theft in the United States alone each year. With an average of $3,500 being lost in each reported case, studies have confirmed that this equates to a total of over $50 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Taking the various steps necessary to keep yourself and your financial identity protected is imperative in order to make sure that you do not become one of this year’s victims.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Credit Report

Keeping a close watch on your credit report and score, in addition to your monthly statements, is an essential part of the process that should never be ignored or overlooked. Studies have confirmed that over 60 percent of consumers have never received a copy of their credit reports, according to Experian. If you do not focus on regular credit monitoring then you are leaving yourself open and vulnerable to the world of identity thieves that may be using and abusing your financial identity in a number of different ways. Paying attention to the content of the report instead of just the score will allow you to search for discrepancies and errors that need to be corrected.

Check Monthly Statements

The Internet has been able to enhance the efficiency of computers and mobile devices when it comes to creating a paperless environment, especially when it comes to receiving bills, letters, and even marketing materials from local businesses. However, it is imperative to never allow this helpful efficiency to become a detrimental hazard when it comes to keeping up with your banking statements. Take the time to review them thoroughly in order to check for banking errors and unauthorized transactions. In addition, make sure that you save and store these confidential statements in a safe place. Cyber criminals and experienced hackers target these types of statements specifically when they compromise email accounts and online profiles of their identity theft victims.

Become a Fan of the Shredder

If you do not already own a shredder it would be in your best interest to buy one as soon as possible. Do not fall into the trap of believing that simply tossing your bank statements, medical bills, and other confidential paperwork is enough. You would be shocked to find out just how many cases of identity theft have been caused simply because a thief hunted through the garbage of their victims literally banking on them making this fatal mistake. Along with regular credit monitoring, make sure that you shred all confidential documents before directing them towards the nearest trash bag.

Do Not Use Weak Passwords

Even though they are very easy to remember, especially when dealing with a wide variety of online accounts, weak passwords are also easy for identity thieves and cyber criminals to target. One study that was published in the Trustwave Global Security Report showed that 80 percent of security breaches and identity theft cases in 2012 alone were caused by weak passwords. Stay away from using commonly used passwords, including “123456” and “password.”  Keep in mind that if your password is easy to remember, then it might also be easy to hack and steal.

No Need to Wait for Hindsight

While it is very true that hindsight is usually 20/20, you should not have to wait to find out about the detrimental effect of identity theft the hard way. Fight against becoming a statistic by focusing on following these key steps to protect your financial identity. Regular credit monitoring, strong passwords, studying monthly statements thoroughly, and using a shredder wisely, will make it rather simple for you to achieve your goal.

Jesse Michelsen

Jesse Michelsen