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Identity Theft: An Ounce of Protection…

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Target, Yahoo, and the Internal Revenue Service What do they have in common? They’re victims of recent security breaches potentially resulting in the theft of private consumer information. While Target may have been one of the largest and most publicized breaches, it’s only one of a thousand security losses that occurred last year.

In today’s hyper-connected technology environment, the threat of stolen identity is more real and constant than it has ever been. One thing that hasn’t changed? The wisdom of the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Take a few proactive steps today to make it harder for thieves to steal your identity. All of the suggestions below are easy and should be part of every person’s habits and routines.

  • Monitor your credit: always obtain your annual free report. Log on to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Beware of imposter websites. This is the only website authorized by law to provide your annual credit report free of charge.
  • Carry only essential information and documents with you. Don’t carry credit cards you seldom use or your checkbook. Leave passports and social security cards in a safe or in a bank’s deposit box unless absolutely necessary.
  • Shred, shred, shred. Don’t recycle or throw away documents containing personal information, like credit card offers, prescription labels, or any billing statements.
  • Review all bills to ensure accuracy and/or regularly log in to your accounts online to monitor activity.
  • Be creative with passwords and change them frequently. It’s true that “password” and “12345” are the most common passwords. Don’t fall into the trap. Struggle to come up with and remember distinctive passwords? Try one of the services that creates and stores your unique passwords for you, like Lastpass.com. Be creative with security questions, too. Deliberately choose difficult questions and don’t use the same questions for every site.
  • Don’t give personal information out to callers. Don’t share information over the phone unless you placed the call. If someone calls from an organization with which you do business, hang up and call the main number of the organization before sharing any information.
  • Encrypt data and devices. Encryption scrambles data before sending it over the internet. Encrypting devices helps prevent thieves from gaining access to mobile phones and laptops.
  • Don’t send or receive sensitive information via e-mail. Never send Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, or bank account information through e-mail.
  • Don’t over-share on social media sites. Over-sharing helps thieves learn about you and your habits. It can also help them learn the answers to common security questions, like pet’s names, favorite foods, siblings’ names, hometowns, mascots, etc.
  • Safely dispose of old electronics, like computers and phones. Wipe your personal data from the device.
  • Don’t let mail accumulate in an accessible mail box. Notify the postal service to hold mail when going on vacation here.
  • Take care when using a public wireless network. Data may not be transmitted securely.

The Federal Trade Commission website offers excellent tips for proactively protecting personal information. Learn more at their website: www.consumer.ftc.gov.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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