Identity protection essentials: 5 trusted tools and services you need

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You may have come across a lot of information on how important it is to safeguard your identity from scammers and identity thieves. It's true that even the slightest bit of information about you can be used by cybercriminals to commit identity fraud. But how can you prevent your identity from being stolen? To begin with, you can utilize various tools and services that are available to help protect your identity.

1. Identity theft protection and monitoring

Let's discuss the most obvious solution - identity theft protection. What exactly is it, where can you find it, and how much does it cost? 

Identity theft protection is usually included with bank accounts and credit cards. The service providers will monitor your account for any unusual or suspicious activities and will contact you immediately in case of any such event. 

You can also take the responsibility to keep track of your bank and credit card statements, whether on paper or online, to ensure that everything is safe and secure. Some companies also provide easy access to your credit agency, enabling you to check for any new credit applications in your name. 

SMS alerts are a great feature introduced by banks and credit card companies. You can configure these alerts to receive instant notifications if your account goes overdrawn or a maximum spend limit has been reached. 

It is advisable to avoid ID fraud insurance as it only helps with the expenses involved in sorting out the consequences of ID fraud. It doesn't reimburse your bank account or credit card. However, if your identity theft was not caused by personal negligence, your bank will cover the cost of the fraud.

2. Secure authentication

It's important to remember that your personal information can be stolen from any device you use, such as a laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone, or smartwatch. To prevent this from happening, it's essential to set up secure authentication. Depending on your device and capabilities, this can be in the form of a password, PIN, thumbprint, or fingerprint recognition. However, avoid unlocking shapes or gestures on your phone or tablet, as finger grease can leave a trail that makes it easier for hackers to guess your code.

In addition to securing how you access your devices, setting up two-factor authentication wherever possible is always a good idea. This extra layer of security requires more than just your password to gain access to your account. It could be a one-time passcode generated by a mobile app or a link sent to your email.

By securing your login authentication, you can help protect yourself from identity theft and keep your personal information safe from hackers.

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3. A VPN

It is important to note that while VPNs are often considered a solution for all privacy and security concerns, they excel at one thing in particular: encrypting your data. This is especially important if you use public Wi-Fi, as it can prevent others from observing your activities and potentially stealing your login credentials or other sensitive information. By encrypting your data, password sniffers cannot collect any usable information.

To ensure your safety, it's recommended to use a VPN on any device you may use on a vulnerable network. This includes your laptop, smartphone, and tablet.

If you're not already using a VPN, it's a good idea to start. Many VPNs offer support for multiple devices, and monthly subscriptions often cost less than £10.

  • Check out our complete list of the best VPN services

4. Antivirus and online security software

It is essential to have antivirus software installed on every computer and mobile device that you use. While Windows comes with onboard antivirus and malware software called Windows Defender, mobile devices are less secure. Online security software can detect malicious websites and phishing links and clean up malware from your PC or smartphone. However, identity theft is a critical risk. 

Scammers often send emails that appear to be from reputable banks, asking you to log in to a fake website. If you fall for this scam, your identity could be stolen. Another risk is malware installing keyloggers on your system, which record your keystrokes, including usernames and passwords. Hackers can use this information to access your accounts and steal your identity. So, staying vigilant and protecting yourself against these risks is important.

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5. A password manager

Remembering multiple passwords can be challenging, but using different passwords for every account is essential. Many account breaches occur because the same password is used for various accounts. This practice puts you at risk of identity theft. To improve your security considerably, you need to end this behavior. 

Using a password manager is the best way to remember all your passwords and keep them safe and secure. Even if you can't think of a password, password managers feature secure password generators that create strong passwords. 

With a password manager, you only need to remember one master password to access the vault. Depending on your device, you may require a thumb or fingerprint to authenticate your access. 

Several password managers are available, such as LastPass, 1Password, and Keeper. LastPass is a reliable and free option (see our LastPass review). However, avoid the password manager built into the Chrome browser, as it's not considered secure.

Don't forget education, awareness and vigilance

If you're using specific tools and services, you have a good chance of avoiding identity theft. However, nothing can guarantee that your accounts won't be stolen in case of a corporate data breach. Nevertheless, you can take some measures to secure your end. But have you done everything you can? In terms of software and services, maybe yes. But there's always more that can be done. 

First, you need to be more aware of cybersecurity issues, just as you would stay informed about local crime. Since we're all members of the digital neighborhood, it's essential to be aware of new risks and always double-check what you're doing-especially when considering following a link in an email or text message claiming to be from your bank. Cybercriminals can attack from any angle and use any media, so it's essential to be prepared for them.

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Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!