August 22, 2016
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Identity theft is a worry we all face living in a digital age. Fraudsters are doing everything possible to obtain our personal information. Some are tech savvy and hack into online databases while others take the old fashioned route and get what they want from looking through dumpsters and asking a few personal questions. While it’s hard not to feel hopeless and vulnerable, there are precautions you can take to better protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.
- Minimize the contents in your purse and wallet
Take a second and imagine if you lost your purse or wallet at this very moment. If you are like most, this is a catastrophic thought because you store your “entire life” in these accessories. From now on, carry only what you need – one or two credit cards. And DO NOT put your social security card, social security number, or import PIN numbers in your purse or wallet.
- Shred documents
Sure, it’s easy to just toss bank statements and credit card receipts into the trash. But this move makes you at serious risk for identity theft. Safeguard yourself by putting all document of this nature through a cross-cut paper shredder first.
- Strengthen passwords
Don’t choose passwords and number combinations that a hacker could guess based on personal background. Instead, use random letters and numbers and create different passwords for each account. And be sure to change them frequently.
- Don’t share personal info on social media
Don’t disclose personal information like your date of birth and home address, which is dangerous anyways, on social media. This just makes you one step closer to being a victim of identity theft.
- Check your credit reports
You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies – they are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request one every four months and check it for suspicious activity or incorrect information.
- Make sure your phone is secure
Use a password to lock your phone and turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it. You should always be mindful when downloading apps. Free versions of popular apps have been known to contain malware.
- Watch your financial statements
Source: Money Matters Accounting
You should always check your bank and credit card statements as they come in. If you see any suspicious activity, report it immediately.
- Keep important documents secure
In addition to financial statements, protect tax statements, health insurance statements, checks, and any documents with sensitive information such as your date of birth, credit card numbers, and social security number.
- Make sure your computer system is up-to-date
Whether you use Apple or Microsoft, it is important to update your computer system to make sure it has the most current anti-virus software installed. For easy tips on how to update your computer system, visit microsoft.com and macworld.com.
- Secure your mail
One of the easiest ways for fraudsters to access personal information is swiping mail right out of mailboxes. Get a security box that locks for mail delivered to your home address, or use a PO Box. If you are going on a trip, ask the post office to hold your mail until you return.
- Beware of phishing
Train yourself to detect phishing. Never give your personal information to suspicious emails or unsolicited callers. And never click on links from strangers.
- Be safe about disposing old and smartphones
When the time comes to updgrade your iPhone, be sure to wipe out all the information on your old phone before getting rid of it. This goes for computers, iPads, and tablets as well. A computer store will wipe all your information from the device. Or check e-Stewards.org to find a certified electronics recycling drop-off site and have them do it.