In a previous article, we discussed various method identity thieves use to obtain your personal information, and a few methods you can do to stop them in their tracks. In today’s post, we are going to continue our series on identity theft prevention and discuss some tips to keep your private and financial information safe and secure.
Stop Identity Theft
One of the most crucial pieces of personal information you need to protect is your social security number (SSN). This 9-digit unique identifier is an identity thief’s Holy Grail. With it, and a few other key pieces of personal information, they can wreck havoc upon your financial well-being. Because of this, it is very important that you protect your social security and not let it fall into the wrong hands.
One way to ensure this never happens is to keep your social security card safely tucked away in a fireproof safe. Most people carry there SSN in their wallets, despite the fact that you rarely (if ever) need the actual card itself. In addition, never hand out your social security number over the phone unless you trust the person on the other line 100%.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, an identity thief finds a way to steal your identity. When they do, it can often take months – or longer – for the victim to become aware of all of the damage that is being done. To prevent discovering that your identity has been stolen before it is “too late”, we recommend you check all monthly statements from credit card companies and financial institutions for any fraudulent or suspicious charges. Hackers and online thieves often make small, easy to miss transactions to test the validity of a card they have stolen or an account they have hacked into. Don’t just look out for the big stuff – keep an eye out for small charges too.
Monitoring your credit scores with the three major agencies is crucial as well. If you notice someone has applied for a credit card or a loan in your name, contact the company and relevant credit agency immediately. If you have the budget, you can opt in for monthly monitoring from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion as well. The fee is nominal and may be worth it in the long run.
The Internet is full of online scams, malware, phishing attempts, viruses, and Trojans – a large portion of which have one goal: to steal your personal and financial information. Once stolen, hackers and criminal organizations either use your info to create accounts and apply for loans, or sell off the data on the “digital black market” to less than savory characters looking to do the same thing.
Using proper password practices is one way to help prevent unwanted access to your finances. Best password practices dictate that you change your passwords on a monthly basis and use a different password for each account you have. In addition, you will want to create “strong passwords” – that is, password that are a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (such as !@#$%^& and *). Avoid using any personal information (such as your son’s birthdate) in your password, as it makes it easier to crack. Finally, the longer your password, the strong it is. We recommend starting at 9 characters minimum. An example of a “strong” password would be: W@2eRd!0zZ.