In just the first seven months of 2014, at least 11 million private records were put at risk in more than 300 separate data breaches, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. The most recent instances being: Home Depot, UPS, Goodwill, and McDonalds.
Some instances of identity theft are unauthorized charges. Others are smaller charges, such as the cost of a tank of gas or a meal at a fast food restaurant, that blend in so they’re more likely to go unnoticed. And still others are large withdrawals totaling thousands of dollars from bank and investment accounts.
Don’t despair: There’s a lot you can do to help keep your data to yourself.
- SET AND CHANGE PASSWORDS – AND DO IT OFTEN.
We know you’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating: Create a different and unique password for all financial and personal accounts. Change your password several times a year – you could do it at the start of each season, so it’s easy to remember. The Federal Trade Commission suggests creating a hard-to-crack password by using the first letter of each word in a special phrase (“I want to see the Pacific Ocean” ® Iw2stPO).
- CHECK ACCOUNTS REGULARLY.
The best way to prevent identity theft is to monitor your bank and credit card account activity statements. Also make sure to check insurance and investment accounts, utilities and services that have been set up with automatic payments, and online accounts like Amazon or eBay that may be tied to your credit cards or financial accounts.
- PROTECT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.
You probably already know not to carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. But did you know that you do not have to give your Social Security number to everyone that asks? When someone asks for your Social Security number ask them why and if there is another way they can verify your information.
- DON’T CLICK ON THAT LINK.
It’s been happening for years, and it’s still happening: Identity thieves trick someone into providing bank, credit card or other financial information by sending an email asking for account numbers or other data. This type of email may ask for a simple reply or may provide a link to a legitimate-looking website. Thieves are “phishing” for information. Never provide sensitive information by email, and don’t click on links that you’re not sure of.
- DON’T LET APPS AND WEBSITES STORE YOUR INFORMATION.
Financial related apps and online retailers will offer to store your credit card information for a ‘faster easier checkout.’ Don’t do it. Take the extra-safe step of typing in your information each time.
- BE WARY OF FREE WI-FI.
Many places now offer free Internet access. A great perk, right? Not necessarily. According the Federal Trade Commission, unless the business offers a password-protected system, it may not be safe. Computer-savvy thieves can more easily hack into Wi-Fi systems without passwords. If you do use a public Wi-Fi network, avoid doing you’re banking or shopping on it.
With these six simple steps, you will make it much harder for someone to steal your identity. As always, if you have any questions, you can call us at 1-877-672-4543 or you can send us a message here.