Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft.  They say that in this world there is now one degree of separation between any individual and someone who has had their identity stolen.  That means that we all know at least one person, a friend, a family member, a neighbor, who’s been a victim.  And, unfortunately, with online activity involved in more and more of our “secure” transactions, we are only finding ourselves more vulnerable.  

We have all heard about the traditional ways to protect yourself…

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card on your persons

  • Shred your mail

  • Don’t sign up for or fill out any personal information unless you know the source is secure

  • Don’t store all your personal information in one place

But in times like these, those safety precautions are like a band-aid for a bullet wound.  I know how diligent my clients are about protecting their finances, and making the best decisions for their financial future, and I hate to see how all of that conviction to saving and planning is at risk because of unawareness and vulnerabilities to identity theft.  

The tips listed above are a great place to start when protecting your credit, but Fox Business offers another dozen to help you keep your identity yours.

  1. Consider an identity theft insurance policy to reimburse you for time and money spent recovering your identity.

  2. Worried that an unauthorized credit account has been opened in your name? Two major tools -- fraud alerts and security freezes -- can help consumers fight back against such an action.

  3. Take defensive action against ID theft by shredding old cards and statements and monitoring your credit and debit card activities.

  4. Be stingy about what you reveal on social networking services. Giving out key bits of your identity could make it easier for an identity thief to apply for a loan in your name or fool a customer service representative

  5. Never put your Social Security number, birthdate, birthplace or other financial information on your resume.

  6. Worried that you may be a victim of credit fraud? Contact the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

  7. Put parental blocks on computers used by teens.

  8. Periodically try to pull your child's credit report. If you haven't added your child as an authorized user to a credit card, your child shouldn't have a credit report.

  9. Be alert to anyone trying to solicit personal information from you.

  10. Maintain anti-virus and anti-malware software on your personal computer.

  11. Stagger your credit reports so you can receive one every four months.

  12. Strengthen passwords online. Don't use the same password on multiple sites.

With vacation season in full swing, it’s important to make sure your identity is just as safe abroad as it is at home.  Here are a few things to keep in mind before you take off to your next vacation destination.

Mail Thieves- If your mailbox fills up with credit card offers and bank statements, it can quickly become a goldmine for anyone looking to steal your identity.  Make sure to stop your mail with the post office, or have a trusted friend or neighbor collect it for you.

Internet Café Spies- As convenient as the pay by the minute online access may be, these computers are often riddled with spyware that can record all your keystrokes, including usernames and passwords.  Try to steer clear by using you cell phone or own laptop.  

WiFi Danger- Even if you are using your own device, most public wireless networks are open lines for eavesdropping and information capturing.  Several hotspot shields are available to keep your network encrypted

The Skimming Scam- Travelers should be aware of credit card skimming: the act of copying credit card data off a magnetic stripe card, whether on an ATM or in person.  Many overseas merchants won’t accept cards with magnetic strips, so your best option is to get an EMV card or chip and Pin cards that are much harder to hack.

The bottom line is this: you’ve worked hard to make your money, and you’ve worked hard to save your money.  Don’t forget to work just as hard to protect your money.  

Image courtesy of: