Identity Fraud (also commonly known as Identity Theft), is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States that affected more than 11 million adults in 2009.
We are talking about a crime that totals $54 Billion annually.
That’s not “Chump Change” but there are some very simple precautions you can take in order to greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of I.D. Theft.
Here are 10 tips I put together to help you protect yourself, your family, and your business from the dangers of I.D. Fraud:
- Properly shred or otherwise destroy all old bank statements, cancelled checks, old tax returns and other documents containing sensitive personal information prior to disposing of them. Personal information you should be on the lookout for is an individual’s First Name, or First Initial and Last Name linked with any of the following data elements:
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s License number or State Identification Card Number
- Account Number or Credit or Debit Card Number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.
- Be extremely cautions of anyone calling and asking to verify your information. Even if the person says they are from your bank, utility company, or other service provider. The safest bet is to not provide any information (especially social security and credit card or bank account numbers) and tell the person you’ll call them back using the phone number that is listed on a previous statement, invoice, or other correspondence. If the person on the phone gets upset and tries to push the issue, hang up immediately.
- When recycling electronics, make sure they have been properly sanitized before disposal. This includes computer hard drives and other memory capable devices such as smart phones.
- Do not email sensitive personal information (including credit card information). Most email is not encrypted and can be accessed if the sending or receiving computer has been breached by “Malware” (Trojans or Key Logging Software).
- Do not keep sensitive passwords and account information on your computer, laptop, or phone unless they have been properly secured. One free program you can use to securely store this type of information is “Keypass” http://keepass.info/
- Never give out your ATM PIN to anyone… Not even to close friends or relatives. Once you give your PIN away you are basically authorizing that person to have free access to your account. At that point, there’s not much that can be done if that person decides to take more than originally planned.
- Be cautious about online shopping. Only shop with recognized vendors that have good on-line reputations with proven secure websites. One thing to look for is that the webpage you’re putting your credit card information on has been encrypted. Once you get as far as putting in your credit card information, take a look in the website address window and make sure the website is prefaced by https. The “S” in “HTTPS” stands for secure and ensures a SSL/TLS protocol is in place to provide encryption so that no “eavesdropper” or “man-in-the-middle” can intercept your credit card information.
- Install an antivirus and malware software on each of your computers. A good antivirus program is called “Avast.” You can download a free version of at http://www.avast.com/lp-upgrade-4-5-free#. If you’re looking for a Malware program, checkout a program called “MalwareBytes”. Learn more about MalwareBytes and download a free version at http://www.malwarebytes.org/. And Finally, one of the best methods for preventing unauthorized access to your computer is to Update, Update, Update. It’s critical that you make sure all your software has been updated. Many times, these updates patch potential vulnerabilities hackers are using to access your computer.
- Review monthly checking, savings, and credit cards statements for unauthorized transactions. Even a relatively small monthly transaction can add up over many months or years.
- Perform an annual review your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies so see if any unauthorized lines of credit have been opened. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you can access your credit report free of charge every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (read more at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports). The ONLY authorized site to get your free credit reports is www.annualcreditreport.com.
Feel free to comment below about any tips you may have that can help prevent I.D. Fraud.
Until Next Time…
Keep Totally Secure,