The Federal Trade Commission estimates that nearly 10 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. As technology improves, it is crucial to protect your information to prevent criminals from stealing your credentials. Here are 8 simple tips to protect your identity:

1.) If you suspect fraud, freeze your credit instead of putting fraud alert on your credit cards. When your credit is frozen, no new accounts can be open. If you simply get fraud alert, criminals can technically still open accounts in your name, you are just notified.  

2.) Cross-shred your documents with sensitive information instead of strip-shredding them. Criminals have the computer software technology to piece back together strip-shredded documents.

3.) Check your credit score. Verify all accounts on your credit score are correct. A good credit score is crucial to buying a car or house. Be sure to report any inaccuracies immediately.

4.) Do not click on suspicious links in emails. This may sound like an obvious tip, but hackers are great at replicating bank websites to steal your information. If you ever get an email from your bank, go directly to that website and log in.

5.) Write your checks with a gel pen opposed to a ballpoint pen. Ballpoint ink can be washed out of checks, leaving your bank account vulnerable.

6) When online shopping, verify that the web address contains an “https” in the address. That extra “s” on the end indicates that the website is “secure” and will safely store your credit card information.

7.) When traveling, have your mail held at the post office. This will keep criminals from swiping credit card and bank statements while you are away.

8:) The easiest and most important of all is creating strong passwords. You probably hear this one all the time, but how do you remember the trillions of passwords you need to know? The secret is to create a “root” password. For example, if you take the phrase, “Joined Future Female Leaders 15”, your root password would be “JFFL15”. Now, simply add a suffix to the end of your root for each login you have. For your FFL account, your suffix would be “FFL”. All together your password for for your FFL would be: JFFL15FFL.

Some other examples:

Starbucks: JFFL15sb

Target: JFFL15tg

Chase: JFFL15ch

Lilly Pulitzer: JFFL15lp

This method can be time consuming, but once you have converted all your passwords, it makes life so much easier! As long as you have your root memorized, you could print out a copy of all the suffixes and keep it with you or in your phone, it would do a hacker no good.

We all only get one identity, be smart and protect yourself.