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Consumers need help to prevent identity theft

Jan 07, 2014 Dave King

With identity theft becoming more frequent in the digital age, consumers need assistance in avoiding this crime. While many people are aware that identity theft can damage consumers credit scores and other financials, but knowing how to prevent this from happening isn't common knowledge.

Short term lenders and other financial institutions need to put more emphasis on educating consumers about identity theft by providing them with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim:

- Check credit reports frequently: If someone has gained access to a person's credit information, it should show up on a credit report. This document should show any accounts that were fraudulently opened. As soon as strange information is noticed it should be reported to the credit bureau and bank to begin an investigation. People who don't want to pay for their report are entitled to a free copy from each of the three major bureaus once a year.

- Don't shop on unsecured websites: One of the biggest reasons identity theft has taken off in recent years is the increased popularity of online shopping. People who stray from the websites of trusted retailers could be putting themselves at risk. Before submitting any payment information, people need to look at the URL to see if it includes "https" and not just "http" as the "s" signifies that website is secure and has an extra layer of protection for personal information.

- Only use password protected Wi-Fi connections: Whether people are shopping online or simply browsing the Internet, it is important to only do so on password protected networks. If on a Wi-Fi connection that isn't protected, outside hackers could intrude and gain access to personal information that could help them steal the person's identity. Protecting a Wi-Fi connection with a simple password such as "123456" isn't enough to keep personal information safe. These should be a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

- Protect cellphones: Mobile phones have made identity theft easier in recent years as well. For this reason, these devices need to password protected. With many people purchasing apps and other products on phones, payment information is often stored. If a smartphone gets into the wrong hands, identity theft could be completed easily, which is why this information needs to be protected.