How do you protect yourself against security breaches, such as those discussed in my previous post regarding the Experian breaches? The Colorado Bureau of Investigation ID Theft and Fraud Unit offers this snapshot at ways to reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim:
Credit Report: Order a FREE copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. It is important to understand your credit report and your credit score, so schedule a meeting with someone at your bank or credit union and ask them to review your report with you.
Debit vs. Credit: Understand the value of using a credit card instead of your debit card when shopping online or paying at a location where a skimmer might be in use, such as a Pay-at-the-Pump. Remember, even if you select the “credit” option when using it, your debit card, if stolen still gives the ID thief access to your bank account and all of your money.
Fraud Alerts: Talk with all of your financial institutions about placing fraud alerts on your accounts. You may add these alerts to checking accounts and credit card accounts. This type of fraud alert gives your financial institution permission to temporarily decline a transaction if they think it is fraudulent. They will contact you by text, email or phone and verify it is your transaction.
Online Banking: Sign up for online banking. It is a great way to track your banking account and credit card usage throughout the month. Just be sure to use strong passwords and practice good cyber safety when accessing your accounts.
Wi-Fi: Learn how to tell if you are using a public Wi-Fi system or your more secure phone service Wi-Fi when using your smart phone. Public systems are easy to hack and allow too many others to access your information.
Click Here: Commit to cyber safety by reminding yourself never to “click here” from an email or text message. Go to sites directly, not from potentially infected email links.
Passwords: Set up a password system with your family to use in case of an emergency. This should be a password or phrase that only you and your family members will know. If someone calls claiming to be a family member in trouble and needing help, you will be able to tell if it is really your family or if it is a scam artist.
Social Media Savvy: Get smart about privacy on your social media sites. Don’t share information that is too personal or might give a criminal too much information about your life and your plans. Even if you have great privacy settings, a good hacker could find a way into your personal information.
Downsize Your Wallet: Despite constant reminders, some studies indicate that more than 50% of Americans still carry critical ID documents in their wallets. Your social security card and birth certificate do not belong in your wallet. You might also want to consider how many credit cards and checks you need to carry on a regular basis.
Inventory: Take everything out of your wallet and photocopy or scan the front and back of all cards, registration information and insurance cards. Keep this copy in a safe location so that if your wallet is stolen, you will know exactly what is missing and how to contact services to report.
Cyber Security: Both your computer AND your hand held devices need to have a quality security system installed. Your hand held devices are basically portable mini computers, so need to be treated with as much care as your home computer.
Protect: Password protect all of your computers and hand held devices.