We talk a lot about financial security, especially as it relates to investing, retirement, and making smart financial decisions. With all of the talk about 401ks, IRAs, and portfolio diversity, we often overlook one of the most important factors to keeping our financial security safe for the future: preventing identity theft. In this week’s blog post, we are going to look at some methods to avoid identity theft and keep your finances intact.
Identity Theft Prevention Tips
As technology continues to advance and evolve, so to does the opportunity for identity thieves to steal your private information and use it for their own financial gain. While encryption protocols and password standards have become more sophisticated in recent years, the same can be said for the tools of those looking to compromise your privacy.
While digital threats are a huge threat, do not be fooled into thinking that the only danger lurks online. Old school identity theft methods are still a strong weapon in the indentity thief’s arsenal. To help thwart these nefarious thieves, below are some common tips to prevent identity theft.
How Identity Thieves Obtain Information
Identity theft has been around for a long time – well before there were computers in every home and the advent of the modern Internet. The old methods that thieves used to use to gain your personal information still apply today and include simple methods such as stealing your wallet or purse, writing down your credit card information, and searching through your trash for financial documents.
From a more high-tech perspective, these same identity thieves also practice phishing tactics and scam emails, phone scams (pretending to be a business in order to obtain private information), stolen mobile phones, and even hacking into unsecured computers, networks, and mobile devices.
Steps to Secure Your Identity
One of the most important steps you can take too secure your personal information is to keep your personal and financial documents in a safe place. If you are throwing your documents away, always be sure to shred them first and scatter the shreds in your garbage. If you are storing your documents, keep them hidden from prying eyes – leaving them in a fireproof safe is your best option.
Another vital step is to create secure passwords for every online login you have. Never use the same password for more than one account, and avoid cliches such as using your child’s birthday or other personal information in your password – this is a huge security no-no. When you do create passwords, make sure they are “strong”, meaning they contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (such as !@#$%^&and *). The longer the password the better, though 9 characters long is a good place to start. An example of a strong password might be: W9@vB3st!08.
Finally, always be aware what information you are sharing with others and with whom you are sharing this sensitive data. Never give out information such as birthdates, social security numbers (SSN), place of birth, maiden names, and so forth, unless you know who you are giving it too or are 100% certain the site you are entering the information in is legitimate. A real financial institution will never e-mail you asking for personal information.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank or a lender, do not give out any information. Instead, hang up and call your bank from a trusted number (you can find one on your monthly statements) and verify that they were, indeed, trying to reach you.