Solid Marks for Gabi Insurance Review

When it comes to my 401(k), daily alarm clock or, yes, even my rotisserie chicken, I’ve embraced the set-it-and-forget-it mantra. But for car insurance? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t shopping for better car insurance rates at least once a year.

That’s what makes tools like Gabi so helpful. In our Gabi insurance review, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of using an insurance comparison tool, instead of directly working with insurance agents, when shopping for new car insurance rates.

What Is Gabi Insurance?

Gabi Insurance is a newcomer to the insurance scene. The San Francisco insurance company was founded in 2016, four years after The Zebra (another car insurance comparison site that I had mixed feelings about; get the full scoop in my Zebra car insurance review). While Gabi is known primarily for its auto insurance quotes, users can also rely on Gabi to compare insurance providers for renters insurance, home insurance, condo insurance, landlord insurance and umbrella insurance. (I could not find an option for life insurance.)

Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker in 50 states plus the District of Columbia, meaning they can underwrite, price and sell policies and handle claims. It also means that, when you generate quotes on the site, you can buy directly on the site. One of the issues with sites like The Zebra is that, after generating your auto insurance quote, you’d have to leave the site and go to the actual insurance company’s site to complete the process.

Gabi works with more than 40 top insurance agencies to help you find the best rate for your car(s), driving history and budget. Among those insurance companies are Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive, Clearcover and Safeco.

Gabi claims it saves drivers an average of $961 per year and can provide quotes in a matter of minutes. It’s time to test those promises.

How Gabi Works: A Review

Getting your Gabi insurance quotes can be relatively painless, depending on the route you take. You have three options:

  1. Don’t provide any of your current auto insurance information.
  2. Provide your car insurance login information.
  3. Upload a PDF of your current auto insurance policy.

Because I’m private by nature (and because I just had the pleasure of dealing with a fraudulent unemployment claim in my name), I was hesitant to provide any login information. I first tried to advance without providing any information, but as we’ll see, this doesn’t get you very far. Eventually, I uploaded a PDF of my policy.

To get a quote for Gabi insurance, you start here.
To get a quote, your journey to cheaper car insurance starts here.

Getting started is easy. First you’ll make your decision re: providing insurance information or not (more on that below). Then you’ll enter your name. (Like I did when reviewing The Zebra, I started the process with the very real, honest name of Joe Schmoe.)

This screenshot shows a portal where Gabi insurance asks what your email is. The reviewer typed in Joe Schmoe.
Mr. Schmoe as he signs up for car insurance quotes.

After providing your name, Gabi will ask for a handful of other contact info: birthday, address, whether you own or rent your home, email address and cell phone number. When asking for the email address, Gabi promises your information is never sold or shared. The Zebra says something similar, yet Geico conveniently sent an email to my inbox addressing me as Joe just minutes after I hit submit on The Zebra’s site.

Gabi Insurance asks for your email address in this screen shot.
Gabi says they won’t share or sell your info; thus far, they’ve held up their end of the bargain.

Contact update: As of two hours after creating my account, I have received one text and two emails from Gabi, but none from any third-party insurance providers. Could it be that Gabi is telling the truth when they say they won’t share or sell your data?

To Provide Insurance Info Or Not to Provide Insurance Info? That Is the Question

That’s what Hamlet said, right?

As I mentioned, in my first attempt at using Gabi’s car insurance comparison platform, I resisted their pleas for my personal info. “They don’t need to know anything about me to build a quote tailored to me,” I foolishly asserted.

But when I got to the magical part where Gabi was supposed to tell me I’m a schmuck who has been paying too much for auto insurance, I was instead given a list of common insurance companies, all with blue buttons that said “View My Quote.”

“Surely I must just click each and see a quote at the ready, despite the platform having no knowledge of my car, driving history or policy preferences,” I told myself. Oh, Joe Schmoe, what a fool you are.

Gabi Insurance shows various options that can help you save money in this screen shot.
When you don’t provide your current insurance policy to Gabi, this is the type of screen you can expect to see.

I quickly learned, upon clicking into Liberty Mutual, Allstate and Progressive, that giving Gabi such limited info meant the site would merely direct me to individual insurance companies to provide more detailed personal information to generate a quote.

That’s right: In that instance, Gabi serves no purpose, because you must start from scratch on every insurance company’s site to compare.

If you’re unwilling to provide either your login info for your current insurance company or a PDF of your auto insurance policy, then Gabi is not right for you.

In the name of research, I decided I was comfortable enough downloading a copy of my policy from Allstate and then uploading it into Gabi. While it does have some personal data within it, my email and password were still safe with me.

It took only a few seconds for the artificial intelligence on Gabi’s site to read my policy and tell me in intricate detail what those pages contained. (This is either really convenient for insurance shoppers or a warning sign that robots are just days away from taking over.)

From there, I was able to input more personal information about myself as a driver, my partner (who is also on my policy) and our car. I tried to remove my partner for a good five minutes just for kicks and eventually gave up. Later on, I learned if I had just waited a few more clicks, I would have had the option of toggling secondary drivers on and off. If Gabi had made that clear, it would have saved me time and frustration.

Actually generating my quotes did take about a minute, which is notably fast. However, I had just used The Zebra a few days before, and that experience was faster, so Gabi seemed slow by comparison.

The Car Insurance Quotes I Got from Gabi

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few insurance agencies whose names I recognized among my top results. And the savings were quite large.

Gabi provides more insurance companies that can help you save money.
My top auto insurance quotes from the Gabi insurance comparison platform.

My top quote came from Stillwater and would save me $622 a year. I was dubious upon seeing that, so I clicked into the “View Details” portion of the quote and did find some discrepancies. The largest: My property damage coverage dropped from $500,000 with my current policy to $100,000 with this potential new policy.

Still, the changes were so minor that it ultimately felt like a good deal. But buyer beware: You shouldn’t necessarily expect your current policy and quoted policy to be one-to-one. Go through and make sure all the coverages you want are still represented by the new policy.

Quotes two and three purported to save me $573 and $468 a year, respectively, but again, those quotes weren’t an apples-to-apples comparison with my current policy, as some of the coverages differed.

That said, all three quotes were large improvements over my current auto insurance. My current auto policy is bundled with my homeowners insurance and thus linked to my escrow, so I’ve got some calls to make, but I can safely say I will be using Gabi again soon to find a better bundled policy for auto insurance and home insurance.

What We Like About Gabi Insurance

Clearly, as someone who has just publicly stated he’ll be using Gabi to generate a real quote down the road, I’m a fan. Here’s some of what I liked about Gabi:

  • You don’t have to leave the site. If you find a quote you like, you are able to purchase the insurance on Gabi’s own platform, as long as you are in the United State, since Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker.
  • It’s got an easy-to-read gauge during the process. It’s a small thing, but I can’t breeze past a good website UX when I see one. I found Gabi’s top-of-the-page tracker for percentage of completion to be a nice touch, especially for a site that is all about efficiency in generating a quote.
Gabi shows how far along you've made it in the process.
Gabi makes it easy to see how far along you are in the process.
  • Uploading my policy was easy. Assuming you want your new coverage at the same or similar levels you’re used to, you can get a quote in minutes by uploading your current policy.
  • You can bundle home insurance with auto insurance. I currently bundle my auto and home coverage, and I would like to continue. It’s convenient to have all my insurance policies in one app, and it earns me discounts.
  • I would legitimately save money. While I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, Gabi could deliver real savings over the course of a year from one of several different insurance companies. More than $600 for me; Gabi truly means it when they promise to find the best insurance company for your needs.

What We Don’t Like About Gabi Insurance

I may be a new Gabi fanboy, but that doesn’t mean I’m onboard with the entire experience. Here’s where I found the car insurance comparison platform fell short:

  • There isn’t an option to describe the policy you want. Gabi pushes you into a scenario where you have to hand over your current insurance account login information or uploading a copy of your policy. If you’re strict about who has access to your data, this could be problematic, as it’s the only way to get quotes to compare on the site.
  • It can sometimes take days. Though I did not provide my login information, some customers have complained that it could take up to two days (depending on the current insurance provider) for Gabi to get into the account and grab the relevant information. That takes the speed out of the process that is supposed to be a hallmark of Gabi.
  • The policies I was provided weren’t perfect matches for my current policy. And Gabi wasn’t upfront about this. I had to do some digging to realize that, by opting for the No. 1 policy choice, some of my coverages would be reduced.
  • They required my cell phone number. I understand needing my number if I decided to move forward with one of the policies, but for the general comparison purposes, I don’t think customers should have to input their numbers.

What Customers Are Saying About Gabi Insurance

Overall, I had favorable opinions of Gabi, but I wanted to see what other customers were saying about the company.

I started with Better Business Bureau and was actually shocked to see that, despite having a BBB rating of an A-, it has an average 1.77 out of 5 stars based on 22 customer reviews. Ouch.

Reviews on the Better Business Bureau website were largely around problems with the actual Gabi service, but some have said working with customer service is not a pleasant experience either, whether due to agent miscommunications or just generally slow customer service response time.

These poor customer reviews are notably absent on Gabi’s site, where it instead shows off its 4.8 out of 5 stars based on “third-party verified reviews” that are certainly not at all curated to paint a favorable picture.

Gabi does score well in terms of its mobile app. In the App Store, it currently has a 4.1 rating. I could not easily find it on Google Play.

The Bottom Line

So should you try Gabi? If you are actually ready to make the switch to a new car insurance provider and don’t mind a little leg work, absolutely. The Zebra is easier since you don’t have to relinquish your personal information, but I found The Zebra to be dishonest about its spam policy, frustrating to use and not really much of a money-saver. With Gabi, you’ll have to actually take the time to give the platform access to your current policy, but in doing so, big savings and an easy sign-up process could be on the horizon.

Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel. 

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Pros and Cons of Only Using One Bank for all Your Finances

In a bid to get the best financial services, you may find yourself considering the idea of trying several banks. However, you might want to consider a one-stop shop for all your banking services. It can prove to be a more convenient option especially if you choose a bank that caters for your specific financial needs. To help you make an even better decision, here are the pros and cons of only using one bank for all your finances.

Pros;

It is easier to ensure the security of your accounts in one bank

The levels of security in banks are different; the higher the security, the more the measures required from you. You may be required to have customer ID, password, pin and secret questions among other things. If you choose a bank with exceptional security, you can put all the necessary measures to ensure that your money is secure.

These may include; limiting the amount of money per withdrawal, maintaining the confidentiality of your account details, getting alerts on any account activity etc. It will be a bit hectic to take this personal responsibility for the safety of your money with multiple banks.

Only Using One BankOnly Using One Bank

Your loyalty is rewarded with personalized service

If you do all your banking with one bank, your relationship with them grows with time and so does the treatment you receive. This leads to a better understanding of your account activity in terms of expenditure, loan payments, credit card payments and other financial transactions.

The bank is able to make a more personalized decision in situations like over draft extension, credit rating, saving interests and account fees. With a good standing, you are entitled to better products, prompt response and you never know, a little bending of the rules at a time when you really need it.

It is easier to keep track of your money

Dealing with one bank comes in handy especially when you have a lot going on in your life financially. You can keep track of expenditures like alimony, child support, student and other loan repayments, standing orders etc. as well as debits form your various sources of income.

In a nut shell, a visit to your bank or a request of a bank statement will show you all your account’s(s’) activity for a period of time. This is much easier when you are dealing with one bank.

You can have FDIC cover for up to $250,000 for each account

You do not need more than one bank just because you have more than$ 250,000 individually or $500,000 jointly. You can actually put your money in several eligible FDIC accounts in the same bank.  These include; Negotiable order of withdrawal (NWO) accounts, Savings accounts, money market deposit account and certificates of deposit (CDs).

Other options can be investing your money manually or automatically when it reaches a certain limit. This ensures that you don’t have all that money sitting in your account without earning you some interest.

Cons;

You lose opportunity for better rates or terms

No particular bank offers the best of all as a package. However, you can choose to opt for the best that each bank has to offer. When you use one bank only, you miss out on what others can give. Online banks for example are known to offer better interest rates compared to traditional banks. The latter on the other hand provide better checking accounts.

Increase risk of losses

In case someone gets hold of your account information or in a case of identity theft, your account can be swept clean. This is even worse if your accounts are linked to cover each other when credit is low.

You may lose out on FDIC cover

If you happen to have more money than can fit into FDIC eligible accounts, you may lose cover for the extra amount. This can lead to losses in case the bank goes under. Spreading it among different banks ensures that it is secure.

In conclusion

Using only one bank for your finances has both its advantages and disadvantages. Your unique needs and preferences should guide you to make an informed decision on where to maintain you accounts. The above information gives you a place to start.

Source: creditabsolute.com

A Brief History of Cryptography

Who doesn’t love a good secret code? Cryptography is the science of secret codes—of creating a language or code that can’t be cracked unless one knows exactly how to decode it.

Today, cryptography is used for everything from internet cybersecurity to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency investing. It has evolved and advanced over time along with technology, but it got its start in ancient times, with hieroglyphs and cuneiforms.

Let’s look back at the history of cryptography and how it has evolved over the years to serve different functions with the same goal—securing information.

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is the process of securing information by changing it into a form that people can’t understand unless they know how it was encoded. The original information is known as plaintext, and the encoded version of the information is known as ciphertext. The calculation or code used to change plaintext into ciphertext is called an algorithm and the process is called encryption. The opposite of encryption is decryption—turning ciphertext back into plaintext, or another readable form.

In order for someone to decode the information, they need to know how to read it or change it back into its plaintext form. Usually decryption involves both the algorithm and a key. Generally this key is a number.

Ancient History of Cryptography

The history of encryption dates back thousands of years. The earliest known use of cryptography was over 5600 years ago in Sumeria and Egypt. Cuneiform and hieroglyphics were created to record transactions. These were not necessarily intended to be secret, but were forms of writing down information that someone wouldn’t know how to read unless they understood the language system. It took hundreds of years for these early forms of writing to be deciphered by other societies.

Early forms of encryption all used a key that had to be given to the recipient in order for them to be able to decipher it. This is known as symmetric encryption, because the same key is used for encryption and decryption. The following are several examples of ciphers that use symmetric encryption.

Caesar Box

Julius Caesar used cryptography around 100 BC to send messages to his military generals, encrypted to be protected from opponents who might intercept it. The “Caesar Box,” or “Caesar Cipher,” was easily decrypted by those who knew how, but it protected messages from unintended eyes.

The Caesar Cipher is what is known as a “substitution cipher” or “shift cipher.” It works by changing each letter within a message three letters, to the right. For example, an A in a message would become a D, and a B would be written as an E. The number of letter places that get shifted is called the key. In this case the key is three.

Since there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, shift ciphers like the Caesar Box are easy to figure out and not very secure forms of cryptography. Once mathematicians figured out that certain letters are more commonly used than others in a language, they understood that people trying to crack the code could start to recognize patterns and figure it out.

Scytale Cipher

The Spartans developed a different type of encryption known as the Scytale Cipher. It was made by wrapping parchment around a pole then writing on the pole length-wise. When the paper is removed from the pole, the message is encrypted. To decipher it, one needs to know the pole’s diameter. The Scytale is less easy to decipher using patterns like the Caesar Box, but it can be possible to read some of the words on the pole.

Vigenère Cipher

The Vigenère Cipher was created by an Italian named Giovan Battista Bellaso in the 16th century. It uses a key as part of the decryption process. The key can be any combination of letters or a word of the message writer’s choosing. The key is matched to the plaintext and used in the process of decrypting the secret message. It’s much more difficult than the Caesar Box because each letter of the message has its own shift value. Therefore, even solving one word in the message won’t reveal the entire message.

Using a key adds an extra layer of security to a cryptographic message. The cipher wasn’t solved until 1863, and became known as le chiffre indechiffrable, or “the indecipherable cipher.”

Vernam Cipher

The only cipher that has been mathematically proven to be unbreakable is the Vernam Cipher, otherwise known as a one-time pad (OTP). It’s similar to a Vigenere Cipher but the key changes with each use. The Vernam Cipher isn’t used widely today due to the challenges of distributing the keys, but it is useful for emergency situations in which there is no electronic option.

Enigma

The Enigma is a type of cryptography using rotary encryption, which was developed by Arthur Scherbius in Germany during WWII. Similar to other cryptography, it was created using disks that were put into a machine in a certain order. If they were inserted in the correct order, the machine would decode the message.

An early computer developed by British cryptanalyst Alan Turing and his colleagues helped to crack the Enigma code. It’s estimated that their work helped save as many as 21 million people.

Asymmetric Encryption and Modern Cryptography

The advent of computers made it essential to develop more advanced forms of cryptography in order to keep data and information safe. This was especially the case as financial transactions began to move to computer networks. Everything from email to ecommerce sites to phone apps use encryption today.

The world of cryptography is also getting more complex due to its use by terrorists and criminals, as well as legal structures which protect individuals’ data. The U.S. Government and tech companies like Apple have been in legal battles for years to determine the ethics around data and privacy.

Most modern cryptography uses asymmetric encryption, or public-key encryption, in which there is a separate lock and key. This allows people to share public keys openly while keeping the private keys secure.

Here are some examples of asymmetric encryption.

Morse Code

Samuel F. Morse developed the Morse Code to transmit messages through telegraph machines in 1835.

The Zimmerman Telegram

The U.S. entered WWII with the decryption of a message solved by the British Intelligence Agency. The Zimmerman Telegram was sent from the German Foreign Office in the U.S. to the German Ambassador to Mexico and proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico.

Lucifer/DES

IBM developed a system called Lucifer in the 1960s, which was ultimately adopted by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and is also known as the Data Encryption Standard (DES).

RSA

The RSA encryption system created in the 1970s was one of the first uses of asymmetric encryption.

Salt

One tactic used in encryption is called salting. This is where a random string of alphanumeric characters gets added to the end of the password before it’s encrypted. Salting adds extra security because even after the password gets decrypted, the “salt” has to be subtracted before it can be used. Even very obvious and common passwords can be difficult to figure out when they are salted.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Today’s default encryption mechanism used by the U.S. government is the Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES. It uses a 256-bit key and multiple rounds of encryption, known as substitution-permutation networking. AES has mostly replaced the formerly used Data Encryption Standard, or DES, which is now considered to be less secure.

Other Forms of Encryption

There are countless other forms of encryption. Some of the commonly used ones are:

•  Triple DES
•  Blowfish
•  Twofish
•  ElGamal
•  Hash Functions
•  Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange

Cryptocurrency and Cryptography

Cryptography is an integral part of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Transactions and balances are tracked on a ledger and encrypted using complicated algorithms. This helps with security, transparency, and tracking. Crypto wallets also rely on cryptography for security.

Each type of digital asset or cryptocurrency has its own form of cryptography, making some more secure or popular than others and providing different use cases. Before investing in cryptocurrencies, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of the way the technology works, especially the use of public and private keys. This will help decide which cryptocurrency to invest in and ensure that the transaction and digital asset storage is done securely.

The Future of Cryptography

As time goes on, it gets more and more challenging to maintain secure encryption of information. Computers and hackers get more sophisticated, and even the most impenetrable codes can be cracked using psychological tactics and social engineering.

Two tools that help increase security are two-factor authentication (2FA) and Honeypots. Each of them works slightly differently, though with the same goal.

•  With 2FA, the user must input a code retrieved from a text message or app on their phone in addition to their password. This means that an account can’t be accessed without access to the individual’s phone.
•  Honeypots trick attackers by creating false data that looks real and then alerting organizations when the attackers attempt to do a hack.

A newer form of cryptography is called homomorphic encryption. This attempts to solve one of today’s major cryptographic problems: the fact that data cannot be processed while it’s encrypted. This means that data has to be encrypted before it can be used for anything, making it vulnerable during that processing time. Homomorphic encryption allows users to process data while it’s encrypted, and then simply decrypt the final result.

The next wave of encryption will likely involve the use of quantum computers and post-quantum cryptography. These add layers of encryption beyond today’s capabilities. However, this technology is still in development.

The Takeaway

The history of cryptography is long and fascinating, and the technology has gotten more essential and complex over time. In today’s world, cryptography underpins everything from social media to financial transactions. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you keep your data and information safe using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and other tools.

If you’re starting to invest in cryptocurrencies, you’ll need a basic understanding of public and private keys. One way to get started investing in cryptocurrencies is with SoFi Invest®. The investing platform allows you to research, trade digital assets right from your phone, and view all of your financial information in one simple dashboard.

Find out how to invest in crypto with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

6 Steps To Avoid Identity Theft Without a Service

There were almost 1.4 million cases of identity theft in the United States in 2020, with people using stolen identities to sign up for credit cards, collect fraudulent unemployment benefits and countless other scams. Cleaning up from identity theft can be a real pain and can drag on for years.

Identity theft protection is an easy counter to this problem. You pay for a service and they keep your identity safe. However, that protection comes at a price. What are your options for keeping safe from identity theft without paying for a protection service? The answer: Keep it simple.

A key part of protecting yourself against identity theft is to remember that scammers aim for easy targets. If you take a few simple steps to ensure that you don’t fall prey to the simplest scams, identity thieves will move on to another target.

In this article

6 simple identity theft prevention strategies

Read your bank and credit card statements carefully

Whenever you receive a bank or credit card statement, review it carefully, line by line. Make sure you recognize every transaction. If you find transactions that don’t make any sense to you or that you can’t trace, contact the financial institution immediately.

If you conclude that someone was using your account without your authorization, request to have that charge removed and also request to have a new card issued to you. In some cases with bank accounts, you may also want to change your account number and get new paper checks if you use them.

Don’t click on email links

If you receive an email that has a clickable link on it and you want to follow up on whatever that email is about, don’t click on the link. Instead, independently go to the website for the business and find the information yourself. Don’t even trust links that appear to be from friends, as scammers can easily fake email addresses. Ask friends to put in the subject line information unique to them so you know it’s legitimate, or confirm with them by text that they sent you that cute puppy You Tube video.

Why do this? Often, links in emails will look like one thing but actually take you to something else. You may end up at a web form or a sign-in prompt that looks completely legitimate but is actually a fake site so that when you sign in, you give that information to a scammer.

This can take a bit longer, of course, but this simple step alone protects you from a wide array of email tricks that can steal your identity.

Don’t give out personal information on the phone 

The same policy works with unsolicited phone calls, too. If someone calls you, never give them your personal information no matter what they tell you. Hang up and contact the company in question directly if you feel that there is something important that you should follow up on.

For example, don’t give information about yourself to a person on the phone claiming to be from your bank or claiming to be from the IRS. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be from those organizations, use the actual website of the organization to look up the correct number, then call them back. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, then you know someone was just trying to scam you.

Have a password on all of your devices

Every computer and mobile device that you own should be password protected, ideally with something complicated enough that it can’t easily be guessed. You should have it set to automatically lock with a password every time you leave the device unused and every time you restart it. This is a very simple way to make things just a little bit tougher for a thief.

Choose a password that is not just a sequence of numbers (if possible) and isn’t a single word. A good strategy is to combine the two – use a word and a number you remember and alternate between the two. For example, I might use the password Trent and the number 2084 to create the password “T2r0e8n4t,” which is very difficult to crack but fairly easy to remember. 

Pass-phrases are particularly effective, such as: “My H4sb@nd Is A R0ck St@r!”. Some security experts recommend using a favorite song for inspiration. Have a unique password for each account; don’t recycle. 

Check your credit reports regularly

The three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) collect your credit habits from lenders; potential lenders use them to assess your creditworthiness. These reports are also used to generate your credit scores. Check your credit reports from the credit bureaus for free once a year. One trick is to check one report every four months, alternating between the three, so that you are monitoring your credit more closely.

Once you’ve grabbed your credit report, go through it line by line to make sure you recognize the information. Contact the lenders first to get information corrected. The credit bureaus will not change accurate information. Reach out to the credit bureau about personal information such as your name, aliases, address or employer.

Use a password manager

A final tip: Use a password manager to keep your passwords safe. A password manager is software that keeps a heavily encrypted file of all of your passwords that can only be accessed by you. This allows you to have different, very complicated passwords for each of your financial services and other accounts, meaning that if one is hacked, the hackers won’t have access to any other accounts.

As long as you memorize a single very secure password for your password manager, it will manage secure passwords for all of your needs. There are many software packages out there that provide this service, such as 1Password and LastPass.

What if you still want a service?

If you still feel more comfortable using a service, The Simple Dollar recommends several identity theft protection services. These can provide peace of mind, but they work best in conjunction with using the other steps in this article.

What do these services do? Identity theft services monitor personally identifiable information in credit applications, public records, websites and other places for any unusual activity that could be signs of identity theft, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Premium packages from these services offer additional features that help you fix identity theft problems and offer proactive help, such as letting you know if your bank has been hacked before it impacts you specifically.

What about credit monitoring? Credit monitoring is a part of identity theft services. Alone, it’s usually much less expensive, but it typically just watches your credit report.

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Source: thesimpledollar.com