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12 Things You Should Know About Identity Theft And How To Protect Yourself

Turns out, that annoying reminder to "update your software" is actually important.

If you're anything like me, every time you enter your credit card number or write down your Social Security number, you cross your fingers and say a prayer.

And while being paranoid sucks, that feeling is well founded as identity theft becomes more and more common.

To figure out how to avoid identity theft — and what it is — I talked to the big dogs, aka the FTC.

1. To start, she explained what identity theft is and how it can be used against you.

Person typing on a computer keyboard

2. Keep in mind that identity theft can happen to anyone, and it doesn't always happen because of a misstep you made.

3. To reduce your risk, shred documents with personal information on them and wipe technology you're getting rid of.

4. Keep your software up-to-date.

Laptop updating

5. Avoid giving out your Social Security number and other personal information.

6. Use a strong password — and consider multifactor authentication — for your online accounts.

Person verifying their identity via their phone and computer

7. Don't keep personal information in your wallet or on your phone, and cover the keypad when you enter your ATM PIN.

Woman at ATM with her phone

8. Be wary of what you post on social media.

9. When you shop online, look for the padlock before the URL, and use your credit card rather than your debit card.

Man entering credit card number into a laptop

10. And make sure you review credit and debit card charges regularly, and check your credit reports at least once a year.

Hand holding a phone with a credit report displayed

11. If you suspect something is wrong, freeze your credit and set up a fraud alert.

12. And if it turns out you are a victim of identity theft, report it to the FTC at and start your personalized recovery plan.

Have you ever experienced identity theft? Share your story in the comments.

And for more stories about life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts