Born between 1965 and 1975? Somewhere there’s an identity thief who would love to be you.
About 19% of ID theft victims are in their 40s — a similar percentage to other age groups, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Still, “every population has distinct vulnerabilities based on how they’re interacting with the world,” she says.
Here are 4 things you can do to protect yourself from ID theft in your 40s.
Stratify online accounts, and manage passwords accordingly
In your 40s, you likely have “a ton of passwords,” Velasquez says.
“But not all of your (online) accounts have the same weight,” she says.
The most important: financial accounts. “(Use a) strong password, one you change frequently and don’t use for anywhere else,” Velasquez says.
Change passwords every 90 days, and if there’s been a data breach or anytime you suspect fraud, she says.
Consider second-tier worries such as shopping accounts linked to credit cards. Recognize the trade-off, Velasquez says. If you’re storing card information for convenience, “you’re giving up a layer of security,” Velasquez says.
Some options: Always use credit cards over debit cards. They carry more protection. Monitor linked cards closely. Disable any “auto reload” features. Consider entering card information at checkout on retail sites, rather than storing it.
Ensure everyone is careful with the family computer
Using one family computer is a great strategy to safeguard kids and teens online, Velasquez says, but make sure the kids aren’t undermining your security.
One big threat of ID theft is peer-to-peer network sites, she says.
These sites allow users to (illegally) share copyrighted material such as music, games, movies and TV shows — “anything that can be purchased in a digital file,” she says.
Some sites also are set up so that users are “automatically sharing everything” on their own computers, Velasquez says. This means your files — from family photos and vacation plans to banking information and proprietary work data — are at risk, Velasquez says.
The solution: Teach kids and teens to skip these sites, Velasquez says. Use settings and software or apps that block peer-to-peer downloads and notify you of any attempts.
Beware of phishing emails
As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do criminals. Gone are the days when those scam emails were obvious from the poor spelling and bad grammar. These days, the email lures and counterfeit sites used in phishing attempts can look identical to the real thing.
Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details.
So be skeptical. Anytime you receive a request for personal or work-related information, “go directly to the source,” Velasquez says.
Independently, and without using any information included in the suspect email, contact the sender directly, she advises. Never click on any links or hit “reply.”
Been snagged by a phishing scam? “Immediately react,” Velasquez says. Change your passwords and contact your computer department, especially if you’re on a work computer.
Keep closer tabs on your credit
“By your 40s, your identity has a lot more value,” says Joe Ridout, consumer services manager with Consumer Action.
Note unfamiliar charges or debits, which could signal a hijacked account, he says.
Also, pull your credit report for free at myBankrate to check irregularities. That way, you’re likely to “be alerted to any new accounts that may have been opened” using your credit, Ridout says.