10 Tips for Stronger Identity Theft Protection

iStock_000043931448_FullIdentity theft is the number one consumer complaint in the country, making it a serious and growing problem. From fraudulent credit card use to misuse of bank accounts to big data breaches, identity thieves use increasingly sophisticated methods to hack and steal personal, sensitive financial data.

More than 34 million Americans experienced identity theft in 2013 alone — that’s about 14 percent of the population — and the financial losses from this crime total more than $24.7 billion each year… almost twice as much as losses from reported burglaries, car theft, and other cases of property theft combined.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. Don’t become one of the millions of victims of identity theft: These 10 tips will help you achieve stronger identity theft protection.

  • Monitor your credit report. You’re legally entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Request your report directly from a different bureau once every four months.
  • Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements. Look for purchases you didn’t make and call your financial institution immediately if you notice anything strange.
  • Shred all documents that contain your personal info. Don’t just throw bills, statements, or even junk mail into the trash or recycle bin; thieves can use anything with your personal details on it to create a false identity.
  • Don’t share personal information on social media or networking sites. Keep your security and privacy settings on “high” and don’t post information that could help thieves assume your identity, like your exact date of birth or your mother’s maiden name.
  • Change your online passwords each month. This makes it harder for would-be hackers to steal your personal data.
  • Use smart passwords. Avoid obvious passwords, like your child’s name, your birthday, or (need we say it) “password.” Instead, use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols that would be difficult for hackers to guess; random combinations are better than words from the dictionary. Clear your history, cookies, and saved passwords—especially if you work on a public or shared computer—and never save your passwords on financial sites.
  • Don’t make online financial transactions on an unsecured WiFi connection. Wait to complete any financial transactions, including simply logging in to online accounts, until you’re on a secure network.
  • Use your credit card to shop online. Credit cards tend to offer more protection against fraudulent purchases than do debit cards or online payment systems.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Be aware of emails or popups that look like they’re coming from your bank; before you enter any personal data, be sure to verify that a website is legit.
  • Secure your mail. Invest in a P.O. box or a locking mailbox to keep thieves from stealing personal data in your incoming or outgoing mail.

Finally, if you suspect your data has been compromised, you can request that a fraud alert or a credit freeze be placed on your accounts. Though these aren’t always convenient, as you have to verify your identity before being issued credit, they may protect you from criminal activity.

Sources

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/vit12pr.cfm, http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/12/31/scariest -identity-theft-
statistics/, https://www.ncjrs.gov/spotlight/identity_theft/facts.html, http://washington.cbslocal.com/2 014/07/01/report-10-million-identity-theft-cases-most-common-consumer-complaint-in-

us/, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0271-signs-identity-
theft, http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/7-ways-protect-yourself-id- theft.aspx#slide=1, http://guides.wsj.com/personal-finance/credit/how-to-protect-yourself-from- identity-theft/

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About Stu: With more than 25 years of experience as a credentialed tax professional, Stu Steinberg brings a broad depth of knowledge to his work. Stu founded Erock Tax to help provide tax strategies to individuals, families and small businesses. He uses his CPA expertise to help each client navigate their long-term debt and mortgage, gaining them the best deals and rates possible. Stu is passionate about empowering his clients through education about their tax health. He is highly energetic and brings a sense of optimism, creative problem-solving and a deep level of commitment to every Erock client.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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