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

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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 August 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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