Wisdom Wealth Strategies Logo

Take Steps to Proactively Protect Against Identity Theft

Get the latest expert financial tips and advice + access to our free financial checklists.

Target, Neiman Marcus, Sally Beauty Supply, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. What do they all have in common? Security breaches and stolen 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. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 9.9 million identity theft incidents last year. Identity theft is stressful, expensive, and a tremendous time-killer. According to TransUnion, it take about $500 and 30 hours to resolve an identity theft crime. 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. Double-check that transactions on credit cards are correct.
  • 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 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 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.

Download our Free Financial Planning Worksheets

Join our mailing list to receive your 2024 Tax & Financial Planning Guide, as well as your Net Worth Statement and Spending Plan.