Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
In the last six years, $112 billion have been stolen by identity thieves. To put that in perspective, for every minute that passes, another $35,600 is stolen. By this measure, it would take just about 4 minutes to pay for 4 years of college. These are the chilling facts published in the most recent identity theft report by Javelin Strategy and Research.
Recently, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it tracked a nearly 50 percent increase in identity theft complaints in 2015, and that by far the biggest contributor to that spike was tax refund fraud.
In a world where most of our personal information is now digitized, the chances of wrongdoing have increased significantly. So, what are some steps that you can take to safeguard your personal data? Read on for some potentially helpful tips…
When Online, Use a Single Credit Card
What do Amazon, Virgin America, and Pinterest have in common? You have the ability to shop online and submit payment information over the web. While this is greatly convenient for consumers it is also beneficial to fraudsters who may be lurking in the internet shadows. If you can, try to use one credit card for your online transactions. By routinely reviewing statements, you will be able to identify any potential issues and reduce the amount of information available to thieves.
Never Debit, Only Credit Online
By using a debit card online, identity thieves can have much easier access to the money in your account on an immediate basis. Why give them that chance? By using a credit card, you will have recourse, which basically allows your credit provider to demand repayment, as long as the fraudulent charge is caught quickly.
Properly Dispose Off or Destroy Documents
Think about all the mail that you receive that contains information such as your full name, mailing address, and account numbers. All it takes is for one of these documents to fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, the envelopes containing this information also provide thieves with the names of your credit card providers and the entity where you bank. If possible, try to use a paper shredder or a secure bin in which you can discard any paperwork with personal information.
Protect Your Mobile Phone
Nowadays, it is hard to go anywhere or do anything without your cell phone. By using a mobile device for transactional purchases, it is even more important to ensure your phone has its maximum security updates in place. Therefore, be sure to install software updates as quickly as possible to ensure that bugs are fixed and that data on your phone is secure. If your phone does not come with a password-protection feature, be sure to get one in place. You can also install virus protection software as an additional layer of safety. Finally, do not place any transactions if you are using public Wi-Fi.
Think Twice Before Responding to an Email or Text
Have you ever received bizarre texts or emails from unknown senders? How often do these come through? Some may be scripted to sound so believable but eventually you will see the request for some personal information. If you’re not sure who is on the opposite end, ask them for their name and phone number. You can then cross reference this information by calling the official number for the bank or agency referenced by the potentially fraudulent caller to see if the request made was legitimate. If not, then you just encountered phishing, which is an act that thieves use to fish for information that helps them steal your identity. Typical patterns include the sender stating urgency, using email addresses that look like those of an established company but are not identical, or referring to you very generally since they don’t yet have your name.
Check Credit Reports
Make a habit of checking your credit reports at least once a year. It is free to do and can help you ensure that no one has opened up any accounts in your name without your knowledge. Furthermore, you can review the accuracy of the listed activity and have a better understanding of your overall credit picture.
As it becomes increasingly more convenient to conduct transactions and bank online, we should also be aware of the potential ways in which information can be misused. Always remember to check your banking and credit card statements on a weekly basis so that you can validate the activity in your accounts. By taking some precautions today, you could save yourself both time and potential cost in fighting an invasion of your privacy in the future.