Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes today, and scammers are getting more sophisticated. It’s not unusual for a victim to be completely unaware of the problem until they try to use their credit and discover it’s a mess. And it can happen even when you’re careful about your personal information. Consider these everyday occurrences that may provide thieves with access to your financials.
- Applying for credit via a card or store
- Visiting a physician or receiving treatment at a healthcare facility
- Applying for a new job Purchasing a new home or car
- Opening a new bank account
- Filing taxes
- Setting up utilities for home or business
- Worst-case scenario: Robbery or theft of your purse or wallet
Big stories about identity theft are becoming more and more common. We hear in the news about it impacting large banks, credit bureaus, and even health insurers. No matter how hard companies work to secure your information, thieves and scammers work even harder to access your valuable information.
In fact, hundreds of millions of Americans have had their data compromised, and estimates say as many as 15 million people deal with the fallout of identity theft each year. So how can you be sure you don’t become part of this statistic?
Here are some helpful tips:
- Refuse to provide your social security number except in cases when it’s absolutely necessary. Offer your driver’s license number instead or other identifying information. If you must provide your social security number, keep track of any time you release it so you know who’s had access.
- Ask every bank, credit card company, healthcare provider, etc., you work with about their security efforts to protect your data. That will help you decide if they’re strict enough for your comfort. It also shows them you’re aware of the problem and demand reliable solutions.
- Call all three major credit bureaus and ask them to freeze your credit file. This will prevent any new credit account from being opened in your name without your express permission.
- Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service like Lifelock, IDShield, or Credit Karma.
- Shred all personal documents and request that any service providers do the same. If you don’t have access to a shredder, let us know. Many local companies hold free shredding events, and we may be able to help you find one.
Keeping your identity secure protects your credit rating and maintains access to preferred lending rates. That can help you save money over the long-term, not to mention saving time, hassle, and emotional energy.
As a reminder, we maintain robust privacy measures in our office to ensure client privacy. We shred all documents with any identifying information, like social security or account numbers. If you have questions about the various ways to safeguard your financial information and good credit, let’s connect.
Think about the amount of time you spend tapping on your phone or tablet or typing on your home computer. With our lives becoming more ‘online’ each day, protecting our personal information is harder than ever. We enter our credit card numbers, birthdays, and other personal identification to access our accounts, make purchases, and even to join online communities. All this data floating around can be devasting if it falls into the wrong hands. No one wants the emotional and financial stress of resolving identity theft!
We can’t turn back time and un-type all that information, but we can take steps now to protect ourselves.
Here are a few tips for helping protect your valuable information:
- Enable smartphone fraud alerts for your bank and credit accounts. Anytime there’s unusual activity, you’ll know about it immediately.
- You’re entitled to one free credit report each year. Use it to know about any financial activity recorded in your name.
- Be wary of emails or phone calls asking for any personal identifying or financial information. If they call you, they should already have any information they need.
- Review all your financial accounts monthly. They’re easy to ignore, especially if you have multiple accounts – but it’s the best way to notice missing money or charges you didn’t make.
- Don’t use a debit card for online purchases. Credit cards offer better fraud protection, and they don’t link directly to cash in your bank account.
- Don’t use your email address as your login for financial accounts, and don’t use the same password for all financial accounts. This makes it harder for hackers to gain access.
No one wants their valuable information to fall into the wrong hands. That’s why the best defense is a good offense! If you’re already implementing safeguarding practices (enabling alerts, shredding documents, monitoring your credit, etc.), you’re ahead of the game. But sometimes, our information is compromised through no fault of our own.
Therefore, it’s important to have your “recovery plan” ready if you need it. Repairing and re-establishing your credit and good name can be a long, drawn-out process, so the quicker you get on it, the better
Helpful information to keep at the ready:
- Place an Initial Fraud Alert by contacting the three Credit Reporting Companies and telling them you have been a victim of identity theft. Request that a Fraud Alert be placed on your file. Equifax: 800-525-6285 Experian: 888-397-3742 TransUnion: 800-680-7289
- Order Your Credit Reports from each of the three Credit Reporting Companies while you have them on the phone. Contact the business’s fraud department if you know which account(s) may have been compromised. As a best practice, follow up in writing – it keeps a record of your communications.
- Create an Identity Theft Report for submission to the FTC. The report will be called an Identity Theft Affidavit. Take the affidavit with you when you file a police report and get a copy of the report and the report number. The police report and the theft affidavit will then form your Identity Theft Report, which is what many companies will request. You can contact the FTC. FTC: 877-438-4338
- Close any accounts you know have been tampered with or compromised. Speak with the company’s fraud department and follow up in writing. Once you have resolved your identity theft issues with the company, ask for a letter stating that the issue was resolved, and any fraudulent debts were discharged.
Resolving identity theft requires ongoing phone calls and letters that could cover weeks or months (or sometimes years). Be sure to record every phone call’s date/time/contact name and have questions prepared in advance. Send any correspondence via certified mail return receipt requested, so you can track delivery. Keep original documents (only send copies) and start a file containing ALL correspondence.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with the aftermath of a data breach or identity theft. Hopefully, these tips can help you limit the damage if you do. If you’re interested in other ways to manage risk in your finances, let’s connect. We can work through best practices to help protect you and your family.