Protecting Your Personal Identifying Information
Identity theft is a growing issue in the world. With the rise of technologies such as email, texting, and wifi, the increased use of credit and debit cards, and people who seek to hack and steal data to put it to nefarious use, people need to be careful with their information. And, in the unfortunate event you note that your information has been taken, it is important to take prompt action. Here are some quick tips:
- Read your statements/check balances online often. Look for purchases you did not make, money you did not withdraw, wires and journals you did not authorize. Notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution immediately upon discovery. It is very important to check if you have been traveling, have used your cards at a new business you never went to before, etc. Periodically check your credit report to ensure there are no loans or accounts you did not open.
- Do not scan statements, tax returns or tax preparation documents, driver licenses, birth certificates, social security number and the like via unencrypted email. Faxing and hand-delivery are generally more secure.
- Do not leave important papers lying around - secure them in a locked drawer or cabinet.
- Do not give out information such as your social security number, birth date, bank account information, etc. via phone. The IRS and Social Security Administration are not going to call you that way! Be mindful of people impersonating crying grandchildren arrested in distant states and the people wanting you to go get money cards and give them the numbers in order to bail them out. Sometimes identity thieves can be threatening - saying you will be sued, owe back taxes, will be arrested, etc. - be alert, be aware, hang up.
- Be alert to email scams such as the undelivered package needing you to confirm your credit card information. Be wary of emails from supposed family members or neighbors in desperate situations such as traveling and lost their wallet, passport, etc - these supposed “urgent” situations are geared toward catching you off guard.
- Consider purchasing an RFID wallet or card case to help protect chip cards from scanners.
- Be sure to use a cross-cut shredder (makes confetti) versus a shredder that makes long strips that can readily be re-assembled. Do not throw items with personal identifying information in the garbage.
- Do not place policy or account numbers in the subject line of an email.
- Be careful not to leave user ids and passwords on or around computers or to utilize public computers to access bank and other accounts.
- Be mindful of computer tech support scams supposedly from a major firm like Microsoft stating there is a virus that needs to be cleared by providing credit card information.
- Use caller id and do not answer calls you do not know. Please be mindful that robo callers can make it so that it looks like they are calling from that area code or state.
- If you are a senior citizen or have an elderly relative, be mindful of anyone who seeks to be taking control of finances or is asking for money - this can even be a family member, friend, caregiver.
- Be alert when online dating when people ask for money for a trip to visit or to pay medical costs for their family or some other urgent situation. Romance scams targeting the elderly are on the rise.
- Be mindful of sweepstakes and contests which require you to pay a fee to receive a prize. These are scams.
- Watch for scam alerts from law enforcement. These can help you keep current as identity thieves become more and more skillful.
These are just a few tips. You might consider subscribing to a data protection subscription which helps alert you to data breaches and to protect your information as well. Identity theft is a growing problem and an ounce of prevention can go a long way. These are just a few tips to help you toward staying vigilant and protecting your information.
This information is provided for general educational purposes and is not intended as specific advice for any individual. Your circumstances may vary.
Seek professional advice before taking any action in regard to your finances.
Todd A. Slingerland, CFP®
6 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203 (518) 867-4000 x105 firstname.lastname@example.org