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10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft, Without Paying for Credit Monitoring Services!

10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft, Without Paying for Credit Monitoring Services!

You should not pay for credit monitoring services as a way to prevent identity theft. In fact, most features in specialty identity theft protection plans are replicable at almost no cost. All it takes is a few hours, and you will be able to replicate most of what these services can offer.

There are many things you can do to prevent identity theft, although only certain efforts will have a real impact. For best results, you should try to build security layers that match everything a credit monitoring and identity theft coverage plan offers.

Here are 10 ways to prevent identity theft, while also removing the need to pay for credit monitoring help!

1)   Get your free credit report!

You do not need to pay for credit monitoring to get access to your credit report. In fact, you have the right to obtain a free credit report once a year from each of the bureaus. You can do this through AnnualCreditReport.com — this is the only website legally permitted to promote free credit reports to Americans!

For best results, space out your requests so you can review your credit report every four months.

2) Place a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze will stop an identity thief from being able to open a new account in your name. It’s a security freeze that locks down your credit report. If a new lender wants to pull your file, you must request a temporary lift of your report or get it lifted just for that creditor. No one else will be able to trigger a lift of your credit freeze, unless they know your PIN number.

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Depending on the credit freeze laws in your state, it could cost nothing to as little as $3, and as much as $20, to place and/or lift a credit freeze. You should find your state’s credit freeze laws before requesting it; regardless, make sure you file the freeze request individually with each of the credit report bureaus.

3) Monitor Your Social Security Number (SSN)

If you do not already have a my Social Security account, there are many reasons why you should create one. The most notable would be the Social Security statement you get, which details anywhere your SSN was used. Yes, this is the equivalent of the SSN monitoring offered by many credit monitoring as a means to prevent identity theft. With it, you can catch any instances where your number was given for civil court cases, criminal confrontations, medical procedures, and much more.

Note: If your SSN was compromised, avoid identity theft risks by requesting a new one on the Social Security Administration website.

4) Put an End to Mailbox Dangers

If you have a typical mailbox, it’s a good idea to invest in a lock for it. An even better ‘plan of action’ would be to get a PO box at your nearest post office. This will help a lot to prevent identity theft around tax season. It also helps you to avoid identity theft in general, as it makes your information harder to obtain.

If you cannot get a PO box, at least lower your exposure to sensitive mail. Go to OptOutPreScreen.com and request that you get removed from the mailing list that gets shared by the credit report bureaus.

5) Never Stop Learning!

As a beginner trying to identity theft prevention strategies, there are many common sense factors that you might not understand. This is why it’s important that you take the time to learn more than just what you find here.

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You can find a lot of fundamental advice in Elite Personal Finance’s lengthy guide ‘100 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft’. Once you get more experienced, subscribe to Robert Siciliano’s blog and keep an eye for new posts — he is an identity theft expert, as well as an author for McAfee.

6) Place a 90-Day Fraud Alert

If you are against the credit freeze option, then it’s recommended that you at least place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit file. This can be done by notifying one of the three credit report bureaus of the request; once the initial fraud alert is processed, the receiving bureau will advise the other two to do the same.

The 90-day fraud alert will advise prospective lenders to contact you to verify your identity. This is done by placing a notation on your credit file to inform the creditors that your identity could be compromised. The problem is that lenders do not have to contact you, so it is not a 100% effective prevention tactic.

Remember, if you do place a 90-day fraud alert, it’s important to make a note on your calendar of when it needs to be renewed.

7) Create a Wallet Backup

If your wallet ever gets lost or stolen, there is no guarantee the contents will not end up in the hands of an identity thief. This is why you need to have an easy-to-access list of the various cards, licenses, and other important information, that can be found in your wallet.

Keep an updated list of your wallet’s contents, including card numbers and contact lines. If you lose your wallet, contact each company on the list and let them know before any damage gets done.

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8) Shelter Yourself Online

You need to be careful about what people can find out about you online. The most detailed pieces of information are found in online whitepages, reverse lookup directories, VPN and other online services providers. If you remove yourself from your local directory, most of these websites will not have access to your details anymore.

From time to time, it’s a good idea to search for your name (with location details) in Google. If you have a unique name, you could even set up a Google Alerts for it. Your information might show up in search results if you sign up for a junk mail list, or if it was shared in a hacking forum data leak.

9) Use Your Bank’s Mobile App

Online banking helps, but a mobile app will keep you in full control over your bank account. It might even be possible to set up various types of security alerts, depending on which bank you use. Just make sure to keep an eye on your account every day — watch out for any transactions that should not be there.

You might not prevent identity theft this way, but the faster you know the quicker you act and that makes all the difference when restoring your identity.

10) Freeze Your Empty File

If you have no interest in building credit, do not be fooled by thinking that identity theft cannot affect you. Even those with no borrowing history are at risk of becoming victims–in fact, minors are targeted the most because of this reason.

If there is no credit report tied to your SSN, then make one and freeze it to prevent identity theft from becoming a risk. Otherwise, it just takes a single credit application using your SSN to allow an identity thief to control your report without your knowledge.

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Conclusion: You Can Avoid Identity Theft for Free!

If you want to prevent identity theft, do not bother with credit monitoring services. It’s really just a service that benefits you if you are looking to boost your credit score. To avoid identity theft, you need specialized services that you can actually do yourself!

Therefore, you must take initiative and better your personal security. The framework is there for you to do so, which means it’s just a matter of making the effort.

Before you start, you should also read our post on ‘What to Do in Case of Identity Theft’ to know how to handle it if it does happen to you!

Featured photo credit: 10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft via google.com

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace

Our world is changing at faster pace than ever. In order to keep up, we are continually adapting to new technology and the changing industries.

Employers are looking for employees who can solve problems, think creatively and be a leader in every situation.

These 19 tips will help you find ways to improve creative thinking skills. You can also use these skills to gain credibility as a leader in the workplace:

1. Set limitations

In order to increase your own creative thinking, it helps to set limits for yourself, so you have to think outside the box to come up with solutions.

Set deadlines, budgets or any other type of limitation to increase your creative problem solving. This will build your credibility as a creative problem solver as you come up with innovative solutions.

2. Change things up

If you find yourself falling into a rut and doing the same thing every single day, then you will likely struggle to come up with new ideas. This is why it is important to change things up in your routine and break out of your rut.

Get your creative juices flowing by exercising at a different time, or trying something new for lunch. Move your desk to a different position or change your personal workspace.

Any of these changes will help spark your mind and get the new ideas pumping again.

3. Listen and care about others

When you show that you care about others and listen to their ideas and thoughts, they will trust you more.

“Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty. You know the leaders who have their employees’ best interests at heart because they truly listen to them.” — Glenn Llopis

Listening to your coworkers allows them to be more open with you and feel that they can take risks and be creative.

Discussing ideas with your coworkers will not only help you improve creative thinking techniques, but also set the environment for a more creative office.

4. Find good mentors/critics

If you want your creative work to improve, then you need to find a good mentor or critic who can give you positive feedback and help you to keep moving forward.

As your work improves over time because of your dedication and your mentor, people will hold you in greater respect.

Every type of creative work takes several drafts before it is ready to go. With your mentors, you can find ways to continually improve your work. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar said:[1]

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“Early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I… choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them go… from suck to non-suck. We are true believers in the iterative process – reworking, reworking and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds its soul.”

Use your mentor’s knowledge to bring your first drafts to life.

5. Try and fail, a lot

The best way to get better at things is to keep trying and failing until you improve. This enhances your creative thinking and shows your coworkers that you don’t give up easily and are willing to improve.

The ability to take failure and turn it around is one of the best qualities of any leader.

The Harvard Business Review reported:[2]

“Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research about how expert entrepreneurs make decisions, they must make lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models. She frequently references Howard Schultz who, when he started Il Giornale in Seattle, the company that Schultz used to later buy the original Starbucks brand and assets, the store had nonstop opera music playing, menus written in Italian, and no chairs. As Schultz has often said, “We had to make a lot of mistakes” before discovering a model that worked.”

6. Be consistent (no tortured artists here)

When you think of creativity, an image of a broken-hearted artist or alcoholic writer may come to mind. Many people today associate creativity with isolation, despair, alcohol and inconsistency.

Just picture Jay Gatsby.

While that is good for drama, that’s not really how creativity works. Creativity is fostered through consistent effort. Put in the work everyday and you will find your creative muscles and credibility will grow.

As a leader in your workplace, you need to show consistency in everything you do, not just your own work, but throughout the company to build your business’s credibility.

7. Be honest to yourself and others

Acting dishonestly is one of the fastest ways for you to lose your credibility. Always be honest to the people around you and to yourself.

If your coworkers feel that they can trust you, then they rely on you more and work with you better. Honesty is what builds a solid foundation for a successful workplace.[3]

During the creative process, it is important to be honest to yourself. It’s easy to get carried away with fantastic ideas but you will need to learn to be honest with yourself about what is and is not possible.

8. Collaborate

The best work usually comes from teamwork. Katherine W. Phillips said,[4]

“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”

Show your coworkers that you value their efforts and perspective. By working together, you can create new ideas and make something better than you ever have before.

Collaborating will not only improve your own creative thinking but will create a bond between you and your team.

9. Use humor

As a leader, you want your coworkers to feel comfortable to be creative and open-minded.

Humor has been proven to help people to relax and feel more willing to try something new and helps foster creativity.[5]

To improve your own credibility and help others gain confidence in their own creative thinking, use an appropriate sense of humor to lighten the mood when needed and to get those creative juices flowing.

10. Be vulnerable

This goes along with being honest with yourself and others. To be a creative thinker, then you have to be willing to fail, admit your failures and be open to receiving critique.

This can be difficult especially in a workplace where you want to show your strengths instead of weaknesses, but by admitting yo ur weaknesses and being open to others, your credibility will grow as your coworkers know that you listen and are adaptable.

Take a look at this article to find out Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength.

11. Have meaningful conversations

Creative people love to have meaningful conversations. This is the best way to gain a new perspective.

You have had a certain amount of experiences that have shaped the way that you see the world. But everyone around you may have different perspectives. By engaging with these people, you can learn more about their views. Try to walk in their shoes and understand their perspectives, especially if you disagree.

Steer clear of shallow small talk and discuss bigger and more meaningful topics with those around you. Ask about their experiences, their hopes, their opinions and you will gain new perspectives that will assist your creative thinking.

12. Be constantly learning new things

Some of the greatest minds in the world (Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerburg) have said they dedicate at least five hours every week to learning new things.

They are passionate about growing their minds and learn about everything from nuclear physics to politics. As they learn about different topics, they look for ways to apply what they have learned to their own industry.

Start your own educational journey today by finding some books you would like to read or finding high-quality articles online about each topic.

Keep in mind your own industry and how you can apply what you learn to your job. You never know all the different ways astronomy can help your marketing efforts.

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13. Experience it all

Steve Jobs once said that creativity comes from experience.[6] The more experiences you have, the better connections you will be able to make to find solutions.

Try to experience as many things as possible. You don’t have to go on some huge trip around the world to have more experience; simply meeting new people and trying new things will give you more experience that will build your creative skills.

14. Give yourself some love

When I was younger, I was given the advice to take the time everyday before I went out for the day to ensure I felt good about myself and fully confident. Sometimes this took the shape of wearing a new pair of shoes or writing in my journal that morning.

I was told if I could take the time to prepare myself for the day, then I could focus all of my energy on the people around me. This is something that great leaders do today.

Take the time to rest and prepare for the next day, so you can throw yourself into your creative work and help those around you.

Self-care can be whatever it is that you need: a hot bath, going to the gym, walking your dog, reading, the list goes on and on. Figure out what energizes you, and do it as often as needed.

15. Take ownership

Accountability fosters your creative thinking because you know that others will see your work and know whether you did it well or not.

Creativity works best under some pressure, so take your projects seriously by taking responsibility for them.

Your coworkers will have greater respect for you as you take ownership for your work projects, even if you are disappointed in the results.

16. Be reflective

Hindsight is 20-20, so by looking back at past successes and failures, you can get new ideas for your work.

Reflecting is a part of the creative process and will help you as you continue to create and work. Learning from the past sets an example for your coworkers and will improve your credibility among your colleagues.[7]

“Creativity requires us to be confident in our areas of practice, whatever they may be. And reflection is an indispensable part of observing, developing, digesting and being in dialogue with our creative ’self’.”

17. Communicate

Communication is key to any good relationship and this includes the relationships between you and your coworkers.

Notice how your coworkers handle critique and find the best way to give them constructive criticism. Notice how your coworkers handle conflict, and find a positive way to help each of them through it.[8]

“Effective communication is one of the key prerequisites for a thriving workplace. It drives fast, clear and precise flow of information between individuals and groups. A lack of proper communication can greatly decrease productivity.”

Communication is a skill that is vastly underestimated and incredibly useful in the workplace. As you develop this skill, you can become an impressive creative leader.

18. Meet deadlines

We have all experienced those coworkers who can’t meet a deadline with their projects. It can be frustrating and throw off everyone else’s work.

To be a credible leader, don’t be that person.

I’ve already mentioned that creativity works best with a little bit of pressure. When you try to meet deadlines, you force yourself to come up with creative ideas.

Use your creative thinking to finish your projects on time, so you can meet your deadlines.

Your coworkers will know that they can count on you to get the job done on time, which will likely lead to you getting more projects.

19. Respect others

No matter how brilliant you are, if you don’t show respect for the people around you, your credibility in your workplace will suffer.

The opposite is true as well, if you show respect to each of your coworkers, your credibility as a leader will grow.

Michigan Ross Professor Jane Dutton who has conducted research on the impact that mutual respect has on creativity said:[9]

“Across our studies, we demonstrate that respectful engagement is more than simply a nice way to interact, but is a catalyst and cultivator of creativity.”

By creating a friendly workplace, not only your creative thinking will improve but also everyone around you. With a work environment of mutual respect, ideas can develop into something incredible.

The bottom line

Creative thinking and leadership abilities are some of the top skills that employers are looking for. Start applying these 19 tips to your work, and you will see great results in your own work and with your coworkers’ work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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