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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 January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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