Six Smartphone Tips To Keep Your Identity Safe

In recent years, the amount of reported stolen cell phones has grown drastically. However, with the accessibility to information smartphones provide, cell phone theft victims are more at risk for identity theft than ever before. 

Here are six tips for protecting yourself from identity theft while using a smartphone:

1. Always lock your phone. While this may seem obvious, 62 percent of phone users do not have a password-protected phone, which means any stranger can easily access the information stored on your device. Unfortunately, even though a password is not going to keep you completely safe from identity thieves, it can make it more difficult for them to access your information stored on your phone. 

2. Download "find my phone." Another easy precautionary measure smartphone users can take is to download "find my phone" or other similar apps onto your phone and turn them on. That way, if your phone is lost or stolen, you can track its location.

3. Don't save passwords. For today's average American, convenience with everything is essential. We love our smartphones because they easily let us just enjoy some of the main highlights of the internet anywhere. However, convenience can come at a cost. While it may be effortless to have your phone automatically store and remember your passwords, if your phone were to ever get stolen, it can be very simple for thieves to steal your information.

4. Use public Internet with caution. If you've ever visited a restaurant, coffee shop or library while using your smartphone, chances are you've logged onto their free Wi-Fi. While this is an easy way to save your data, it does endanger your privacy. Many Wi-Fi hotpots are unsecured, making it easy for others using the network to hack into your accounts. Be careful when transacting when on free Wi-Fi. 

5. Hide personal information. Keeping up with all of your various passwords and account numbers can be a difficult task. To make it easier, apps such as “notepad” can help you keep track of them. However, if your phone were to ever get stolen, seasoned identity thieves may be able to get their hands on everything that’s safely guarded by passwords.

6. Know your apps access. Remember that cool new app you just downloaded? While it might be making your life easier in some way or even entertaining you, it could also be accessing important information on your phone. When you click "OK" or "I accept" during an app download, you'll see a list of everything the app will have access to on your phone, which may include your location, contacts, calendar and photos. Always be sure to read through the list to make sure you are comfortable with what the app will see, and go into your app settings once the app is downloaded to change any privacy settings such as location tracking.

There's no doubt that smartphones are a great invention. However, at the same time they have made the work for identity thieves a little bit easier. By following these six tips, your level of anxiety about the possibility of becoming a victim of smart phone id theft will decrease! 

Appreciating Credit Reports: 3 Ways They Make Life Easier

Credit reports can sometimes be overwhelming and overlooked; especially when keeping track of the three main bureaus that offer credit reports. Understanding and appreciating credit reports can be beneficial, because many times, what you don’t know may hurt you.

Here are 3 benefits to keeping track of your credit:

1) They offer you a clear indicator of your financial health.
It’s easy to keep track of a huge chunk of your financial activity using your credit report. Here, you can find all your loans and credit cards listed on one document. You can also see the status and payment history for each account. Notable public records such as bankruptcy filings may also be found here.

With all of this information on one piece of paper it might also be easier for you to spot any inaccuracies or errors as they’re all on one record. Do keep in mind that your credit report does not hold all financial information as found in your bank statements. Be sure to monitor both.

Credit reports also offer some insight if you’ve been rejected for a loan or a credit card application. After all, if your credit scores are low, it may be harder to get approval for a loan. But if your credit score is high enough, you can consider using it as proof to back you up when making an appeal.

2) You’ll know who checks your credit history.
Businesses and organizations can check your credit history for various reasons. Some do “hard” inquiries (credit checks that can affect your credit scores) to see how credit-worthy you are when you apply for a loan, while others want to see your standing as part of a background check. In some cases, businesses can do “soft” (credit checks that do not affect your credit score) checks on your credit for pre-qualification to promotional campaigns.

Having too many “hard” inquiries performed on your file in a short span of time can be a red flag to lenders. You might come off as desperate and it could diminish your credit score. If the companies doing “hard” checks on you don’t seem familiar, this could be an early sign that someone is trying to create accounts under your name in a case of identity theft.

3) Detect identity theft.
Lenders may report all the activity under your name to the 3 main credit bureaus. Since all of these are on your credit report, it can help you spot accounts made under your name without permission. 

If you discover any such accounts or inaccuracies on your credit report, it might be a sign of identity theft. Consider checking your credit report regularly to spot these.

These are just three ways to keep track of your credit report to make life a little easier.

Strong Passwords: Your First Line of Defense Against Identity Theft

To steal your identity online, thieves just need to know something as simple as your password. Creating one that’s strong is crucial to keeping your identity safe. After all, a weak password can be easily cracked by a computer program or guessed by a savvy hacker.

Here are a few important details to consider when creating a strong password:

• Think outside of the box: 
Steer clear of common passwords. Thieves often try to open accounts by using passwords that are used by a lot of people. According to a source, these include ‘password’, ‘ninja’, 123456, and so on.

• Steer clear of personal information: 
Avoid using your birthday, Social Security number, or other personal information as a password. If you use personal information as your password, it might not just be your account that’s gone when you’re hacked. You can have your identity stolen with the same information.

• Additional characters: 
Intricate numbers, uppercase letters, and special characters may help make passwords harder to guess for both human hackers and programs. So instead of using something like “soulfulsiren,” try making it stronger and use “soulfulSireN34.” Thankfully, many sites nowadays require users to create these complex passwords when they register. 

• Change the default password: 
Consider changing the default password. It’s usually the same password given to everyone who signs up on a website. This can also be true for electronic gadgets like smartphones and wireless routers. So if you don’t want anyone tampering with your account or gadget when it gets lost, try to remember to change the default password.

• Switch it up: 
You may want to use a variety of passwords for all of your accounts. That way, when one account is hacked, your other accounts can remain safe. To make it easy for you to remember multiple passwords, consider using a theme. For example, a food-themed password series could have “pestoparmigianacheese23!” for one account, and “fusillisushi235 (tempura)” for another account.

Learn more about these principles that can be helpful to prevent hackers from breaking into your account at

Does Credit Bureau Matter?

If you've had any experience dealing with credit, you may know that there are three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. And, if you've looked at your credit report recently, you might have noticed that your 3 bureau scores are different. Does this mean that one bureau is better than another? Not necessarily. In fact, it can be helpful to look at all three credit reports and scores.

Here are three noteworthy reasons to consider when looking at all three credit reports:

• Different information. Each of your three credit reports may be mostly similar, but sometimes lenders can report information to one bureau and not the other. While the bureaus share the information they're given, it can sometimes take a while, so your reports may differ in terms of what is listed. This means that it may be a good idea to look at all three credit reports so that you can double check your listed information.

• Errors. Just like different information may show up on different reports, all three credit reports could have different errors. One source says close to 52 million Americans could have credit report errors, which can hurt your score.  In order to fix errors, it’s good to first be aware of them. Regularly checking and staying on top of all three of your credit reports can help limit these types of errors. 

• Identity Theft. Another reason to monitor your credit report is to protect yourself from identity theft. For example, if someone tries to defraud an account that is only listed on your Experian report, and hasn't yet made it to your Equifax report, the thief may have a better chance of successfully stealing your identity. To stop identity thieves in their tracks, try to routinely monitor your credit report and bank accounts for suspicious activity.

At PrivacyGuard, we offer one of the most comprehensive programs to keep track of your credit. We monitor all three bureaus for any changes to your credit file, and we help you see updated credit reports and scores on a monthly basis. Our credit-monitoring services also double as a safeguard from identity theft because we can provide your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports daily and alert you if certain changes occur or if a new account is opened.

Five Credit Mistakes Brides Should Avoid

Whether you're a bride-to-be who dreams of a summer time or winter time wedding, there is one thing you most likely aren't dreaming of-- credit mistakes. No matter what season you'll be saying your vows in, there are five big credit mistakes that you should try to avoid.

1. Wedding debt. While every bride imagines a beautiful wedding that will be absolutely perfect, they probably don't fantasize about just how much their ideal wedding can cost. On average, couples can spend about $25,000 on their wedding  potentially putting themselves into major debt for the big day. While this doesn't mean you should completely rethink your wedding plans, try taking precautions of what you can afford and where you can cut costs.

2. You don't share credit scores. While saying "I Do" signifies a lifetime of commitment to your spouse, it doesn't signify a commit to their credit scores! Your credit scores aren't impacted by your marital status and you won't take on your spouse's scores or vice versa. Everyone has their own credit score. 

3. Co-signing a loan. While your credit scores may not be affected by your marital status, couples can co-sign loans together, which can have an impact on each other's credit scores. So, when possible, it is better to have one partner or the other sign for a loan instead of co-signing. However, be aware that in some states, you could still be held liable, even if you don't co-sign on the purchase. 

4. You can't change others' credit habits. Even though you won't be taking on your spouse's credit scores, it’s a good idea to be on the same page with finances. Finances can be a touchy subject among couples , as you may have different opinions about budgeting, debt, credit and money. If your spouse has a lower scores or a different view on finances, consider having a conversation with them about the importance of good scores for achieving your long-term goals. 

5. Making only one partner financially responsible. In many households, one spouse ends up handling the finances for the entire family. However, this can be dangerous as it leaves the other spouse in the dark when it comes to the household's financial situation, which can lead to potentially poor credit choices.  

Every bride’s wedding day should be the happiest day of their life, so don't let poor credit decisions ruin your happily ever after!

To keep up with where your credit scores stand with the three credit bureaus during your wedding planning, sign up for PrivacyGuard.