Identity Theft: Ending the “Hope It Won’t be Me” Mentality
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There are two extreme schools of thought it would seem in protecting personal information. There are those who focus on all the bad that might happen and work to prepare and protect. Some can go a little overboard with this. Then, there are others who think a little more passively. “Surely it won’t happen to me, who would want my information?” they think. And, that’s the side of the spectrum that can quickly put you at risk. It sounds a little too doom and gloom, but having a passive mentality isn’t identity protection.
Identity thieves are looking for the ones careless with their information. They’re looking for easily hacked passwords, willing participants to give personal information over the phone and personal information readily found online.
Whether it’s someone stealing your profile from Facebook or opening credit cards in your name, there are many ways for identity thieves to wreak havoc on your life. As an example, from 2014 to 2016, a couple allegedly used credit cards to live a luxurious life. Where did they get the money? They didn’t just prey on one person. They opened multiple accounts using stolen personal information, primarily from senior citizens. Read the story here.
We encourage you to take proactive steps so you don’t become like the 10% who became identity theft victims as reported in 2016 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That’s 17.7 million people who dealt with some form of identity theft that year. Thankfully, of that number, 88% reported no losses or losses less than $1.
So, how do you end the “hope it won’t be me” mentality and take proactive steps to keep you and your family’s information safe?
Here are a few precautions to take:
-Check your credit annually
Set a calendar reminder to check everyone in your home’s credit report every year, including your children. Some identity thieves will prey on children because they know their credit won’t be monitored for a few years. We recommend using annualcreditreport.com to check your credit. This won’t give you your credit score, but it will show you any current or past credit in your name. If there is a loan or credit card taken out in your name, you’ll be able to see it on this report.
-Freeze your credit
If you’re sure you will not be purchasing a car or home soon; if you’re positive that you won’t need any new line of credit, then consider freezing your credit. This will keep identity thieves from opening accounts in your name and it doesn’t hurt your credit score. When you need a credit check, you can unfreeze it within a few days. Here’s how to do it.
-Check the following often: credit card accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts
Keep your accounts balanced with your personal records to ensure unauthorized charges are not getting through. If you see something suspicious pop up on your account, contact your bank, credit union or credit card company immediately. With Signet, we have a few different ways to monitor this. You can set up email alerts to come through if a certain amount is spent on your debit card. Or, if you’re a Signet member you can download the MobiMoney app that allows you to monitor immediate purchases to your debit card. It even gives you the option to freeze the card if you believe it’s been compromised.
-Use difficult passwords and keep them stored in a safe place
We’ve heard it before and sometimes it’s hard not to do, but using the same password or even variations of the same password is not a good strategy. Try to use complex passwords with numbers and symbols. Storing passwords on a paper taped to your computer is not a good idea. Keep your passwords secure virtually and physically.
-Before adding in any personal information online, be sure it has “https://” before the URL
For example, when you visit our website you’ll notice that it says “https://signetfcu.com”. This means it has what is called an SSL security certificate on the website. It’s an indication that it is a secured website. If you do not see this do not add any personal information such as your name, email, credit card number, address, etc.
-Buy a shredder or visit the WPSD’s Super Shredder
We help sponsor Super Shredder about once a year, but they have these throughout the region from Spring to Fall. See their event schedule here. Or, purchase your own shredder so you can shred those documents immediately.
-Know what information you do not have to give.
Be very careful who you give personal information to online or over the phone. Avoid giving your credit card number or Social Security Number unless it’s necessary and you are sure it’s a source you trust. Plus, if you are using your debit or credit card, a merchant cannot require you to present a photo ID. If they ask, don’t allow them to copy any information from your ID.
These are just simple steps that will help protect you and your family from those who would like to take advantage. Identity theft can cause a lot of headache, so protect your identifying information and your financial assets.
Want more tips to keep your financial life healthy? Read more here!