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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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