Identity Theft and Cybersecurity Guide

The technology that makes our financial lives easier can also invite identity theft by exposing our personal information to criminals.

Incidents such as the 2017 Equifax breach, which exposed the personal information of more than 145 million people, stoke our worries about cybersecurity.

Here’s how to protect yourself from fraud, scams and identity theft — and what to do when things go wrong. First, some tips from the Department of Homeland Security:

Strong, unique passwords

Use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols — at least eight characters. Use a different password on every account. These tips can help.

Extra authentication

When possible, sign up so an element in addition to your password is required, such as a code sent to your mobile phone.

Guard your info

Keep passwords, Social Security and account numbers, birthdate and other identifying information private.

Think twice

Don’t click on sketchy links, websites or ads. Avoid offers that seem too good, pressure you to act fast or seek personal info.

Identity theft

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Scammers want to get ahold of your personal information so they can makes charges on your accounts, open new accounts in your name — even claim your tax refund before you can, or get medical services posing as you. Here’s what you can do to thwart them.

» Click here for a downloadable checklist of proactive steps, and what to do if you think your data has been stolen

»MORE: States, Cities With the Most ID Theft Complaints 

Protecting your credit

Defend Your Credit by Reading Your Credit Reports

Your credit scores depend on the data in your reports. It’s wise to monitor your reports so you can correct score-damaging errors and spot signs of fraud or identity theft.

Protecting your financial life

How Serious a Crime Is Credit Card Fraud?

How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud

As long as you report fraud promptly, you have little financial liability. But the headaches of canceling a card and revising autopay records make it more than worth your while to prevent.

» MORE: How to Dispute Fraudulent Charges

Rattled by Card Fraud? Use a Simple ‘Everyday and Autopay’ Tactic

Tax Refund Theft

7 Things To Do if Your Tax Refund Is Stolen 

If you get an error message from your tax software or a letter from the IRS saying a return has already been submitted, a scammer may have grabbed your refund before you could. Here’s what to do.

» MORE: IRS Phone Scam, Tax ID Theft Victimize Consumers

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small Businesses

Criminals don’t just target big fish like Equifax. One report found that businesses with under 99 employees faced an average cost of $36,000 after a cyberattack. Here’s what you can do to protect your business.