You, like most people, probably believe that identity theft is something that could never happen to you. Then, one day, you’re reviewing your monthly bank statement, and see a list of charges made to your account from a country you’ve never dreamed of visiting. Just like that - you’ve become one of the millions of identity theft victims that occur in the U.S. every year.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard, hackers recently accessed the personal information of over 143 million people within Equifax’s database. Unfortunately, these hackers were able to access financial information putting many of us and the people we care about at risk.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can protect yourself from potential identity theft and fraud. Most of these actions are common sense, but they’re often overlooked. Here are 7 tips you can follow to help protect yourself:
Be wary of emails or social media messages asking you to log into a financial account. Your bank, mortgage company, investment account, or the IRS will never request personal information by email. Never click on links embedded in those emails; instead, always log into your accounts by manually typing the web address into your browser.
Never give out personal information in response to a phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS or a financial institution. If you get a suspicious phone call, hang up and call the organization directly for more information.
Protect your sensitive information by collecting mail promptly and shredding documents containing account numbers, credit card numbers, or your Social Security number.
Never use the same PIN or password for multiple accounts or websites. Doing so increases the risk that a single attack could compromise your identity or result in fraud.
Monitor your financial and credit card statements carefully to identify suspicious activity. If you find fraudulent transactions, report them to the relevant institution immediately to reduce your financial liability.
Check your credit report often. You can check your report for free at creditkarma.com. If you find fraudulent accounts or activity that you don’t recognize, immediately file a report with all three agencies.
If you don’t anticipate purchasing a home, new car or opening a new line of credit, you may want to consider placing a security freeze with the three different credit bureaus. You can learn more about this by clicking here.
No one wants to be the victim of identity theft, and it’s up to you to control whether or not you are adequately protecting your personal accounts and information. By following these tips, you will be on the path to stronger security. If you would like to discuss ways to deepen your protection from identity theft, we are more than happy to help.