10 Tips to Protect Yourself
Identity theft is a serious problem affecting people every day. It can be an expensive problem if you are a victim. About 14% of persons, age 16 or older, were victims of identity theft, according to the CBS News Justice Department report released December 13, 2013.
To help prevent identity theft, here are a few simple precautions to keep your personal information safe:
Never give out your personal information over the phone unless you have made a call and know exactly who you have called. Identity thieves often call you, posing as banks or government agencies. Beware of ANYONE calling you and asking for personal information. Ask what organization they are representing, hang up and call that organization directly if you think the inquiry could be legitimate.
Password Protection - How to protect your accounts using passwords. Some best password protection practices include the following:
DO include capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for maximum protection.
DON’T use common phrases. Those are weak and aren’t much more secure than common words.
DO use complex phrases strung together along with symbols.
DON’T use personal details about yourself to build a password such as zip codes, pet’s or home town names.
The same should go for any password reset questions used when you forget a password, as presidential candidate Mitt Romney learned during the run up to the election when someone accessed his Hotmail and Dropbox accounts after resetting his password to one of their own choosing.
Shred Everything: shred your receipts, bank statements, returned checks, everything with personal identifiable information on it. (Bring to our annual shredding event in April.)
Freeze your credit: This has a high probability to prevent someone from opening credit in your name. Or as an alternative, but as a less preventative action, use credit monitoring programs - you can find free ones or ones you pay for through websites like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma, or any of the three credit bureaus.
Here is a short description of what a credit freeze entails from the Office of the Attorney General:
If you live in California, you have the right to put a "security freeze" on your credit file. A security freeze means that your file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer's credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number would probably not be able to get credit in your name.
A security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report of identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $30 to freeze your files. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are 65 years of age or older, it will cost you $5 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $15 to freeze your files.
Study your credit card bills. Identity thieves often put very small charges, usually less than $1 on your credit card first to test the use, before they sell your information or use it for larger charges.
Make sure others are keeping you safe: this includes your doctor’s office, Employer, or anyone else to whom you have given personal information.
When ordering new checks, pick them up rather than have them sent in the mail.
Use firewall software to protect computer information. Keep virus and spyware software programs updated.
Reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive: 888-5OPT-OUT
Order your free annual credit reports on-line at: www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. Or sign up with Credit Sesame, Credit Karma or other services who will contact you when there is any change on your credit report, including new accounts opened in your name.
Click here to find information regarding our big shred event.