As much as we would like to believe everyone values and protects the privacy of others, reality consistently proves quite the opposite. Society is filled with experts in identity theft who dwell in the pursuit of sensitive information to use for their own personal gain. Your credit card or bank account info, passwords, social security number, health records, social networks, and much more are at risk of being misused anytime and anywhere. With 11.7 million reported victims of identity theft between 2006 and 2008 – that’s 5 percent of all people in the U.S. age 16 and older – securing your personal information is critical to the safety of your credit, finances, and good name.

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to secure your personal information and protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Read on for the 7 easy ways to protect your identity.


Use Public WiFi Safely

Public WiFi has become a common phenomenon in America.Whether you’re reading at the library or grabbing a cup of Joe at your favorite cafe, you can connect to a local WiFi network and use the internet in seconds. Unfortunately, it only takes seconds for a thief to sign into the same network and gain access your personal information. Public WiFi can be used safely by signing up for a VPN (virtual private network) service or avoiding the use of sensitive info while using it. Save online bill pay, internet banking, and the like for your secure home network.


Shred It

Snail mail includes many forms of sensitive personal info, from social security numbers to bank account numbers. Though thieves often use advanced technology, low-tech methods such as dumpster diving are still prevalent and dangerous. Protect your information by using a personal shredder to destroy documents with any form of important info immediately after you’re done with it.


Less is More on Social Media

Social media can be very dangerous in terms of identity theft; however, there are many ways to use it safely. First, check the privacy settings on all your social media networks to regulate how much information you share. Avoid using social media to share updates about recent purchases and where you are because social media has become a critical tool in choosing targets for theft. Reports show 80% of robbers use social media for this very purpose.


Password Protect Your Phone

To avoid the annoyance of entering a code every time they enter their phone, many people completely avoid password protecting their phones. Unfortunately, your phone is one of the most dangerous objects you own in terms of identity theft. Your phone contains a variety of contacts, passwords, access to personal accounts, social networks, and email history. Stay safe by using a unique code, ID, or even fingerprint technology to lock your phone.


Protect Your Passwords

An insecure password can open the floodgates and offer thieves unlimited access to your personal information. Many people create either incredibly easy to guess passwords (“12345″) or use the same password for all of their accounts. It might be easy to remember, but if just one of your password combinations is stolen, all of your information instantly is instantly at risk.

Create unique and complex passwords that contain letters, numbers, and characters to stay safe. Also be sure to protect your password by keeping it private.

There is no perfect plan, but adding these simple security measures is the first step toward keeping your identity safe.