Identity theft is one of the scariest threats for the average individual. A criminal perpetrating identity theft is not only stealing your money, but they are impacting your ability to take out loans, file insurance claims, find housing and even apply for jobs.
The worst cases of identity theft follow their victims for the rest of their lives, preventing individuals from establishing any sense of security.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk of identity theft. In addition to using ID theft protection tools, you should do everything you can to prevent your personal information from being revealed to fraudsters.
When less information about you is available, criminals will have fewer opportunities to steal your identity — and they will be much more likely to be caught in the act. Here are a few guidelines about where, when and why you should give out your personal information.
Fill Out Only Required Info
Most organizations benefit from having as much information on clients as possible, but in truth, not all the information they are asking from you is strictly necessary.
On forms, you should fill out only the boxes that are marked as mandatory to reduce the amount of information about you that can be leaked during data breaches.
Pay Attention to URLs
Not all websites are created equal. You should only submit sensitive information on websites that begin with https:// — the “s” indicates that the site utilizes a certain standard of encryption.
Some web browsers will showcase this with a lock symbol next to the URL. Websites without the lock or https:// should never be trusted with any of your personal information, and you might want to avoid clicking any links on unprotected websites, as well.
Look Into Security Certificates
Usually, websites interested in collecting sensitive information will also pursue certain security certificates that demonstrate their commitment to keeping your data safe.
However, some websites will allow these certifications to lapse, and outdated certification puts your information at risk. If the requested information is particularly sensitive, you might investigate the authenticity of displayed security certificates.
Investigate Contact Addresses
Companies that post contact information tend to be more trustworthy, so you should look for phone numbers and physical addresses on a company’s website before submitting your personal information.
Plus, you might need a way to contact a company that has your data if they suffer a breach, so having an organization’s contact info on file might be wise.
Read the Fine Print
So many tech tools and products require users to agree to certain terms of service that most users don’t bother to read even a single line before agreeing. Unfortunately, hidden in the fine print are the ways in which the company might capture and use your data.
To ensure that your data is stored securely and not spread around the web, you should read the fine print whenever you encounter it and refuse to submit information when you are uncomfortable with the terms.
Determine Your Level of Trust
Perhaps you have researched the organization’s security and read the terms of service and you haven’t found a clear indication that the company is untrustworthy — but you still don’t get a good feeling about submitting your sensitive information.
You should always stop and assess your level of trust before providing your data, and you can and should trust your gut.
Ask for More Information
Using the contact information gathered above or the customer support service available online, you can ask the company why they need certain types of private information.
If they cannot provide a satisfactory answer, you might ask whether you can utilize their services without providing the requested information. If not, you might find a different solution that is less demanding of your data.
Don’t Lie to the Government
There is one organization you should always offer accurate information: the government.
To provide you with the services you need, like healthcare, social security benefits, tax information and the like, government agencies need some of your most sensitive information, and you should never be tempted to fudge on government forms.
Submitting inaccurate information to the government can be costly and might even land you in jail.
You need to take responsibility for your information if you never want to become a victim of identity theft. By thinking twice and when, where and why you are submitting your personal information, you should reduce opportunities for criminals to steal your data and ruin your life.