Last year, con artists managed to nab $21 billion dollars through identity fraud or theft schemes. While anyone could be a target of identity theft these days, a primary target would be someone with a healthy bank account balance and a great credit rating. To prevent damage to your assets and credit score, consider these safeguards against identity theft.
Secure your computer. Plenty of dangerous personal information is stored in your computer, and hackers know this. Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software updated, install security updates when your computer first notifies you, and use a secured network connection only.
Use caution when shopping online. Only shop at trusted online retailers, and reconsider the idea of allowing them to store your card information for you. Yes, it makes future purchases a breeze, but a security breach on their end will compromise your information. Use the “check out as guest” feature instead of creating an account with the store.
Use strong passwords. You might be surprised at how much an online criminal could learn about you from hacking into your email or social media account. It’s not difficult to imagine the devastation if they gained access to your online bank account or tax preparation service. So choose passwords that are long, use nonsensical words, and include numbers and symbols.
Avoid suspicious emails. Even if an email appears legit, don’t click links. They often lead you to a fake, but very realistic-looking website that mimics your bank or some other business. Victims enter their account login information, which are then stored and used by criminals to access the real account. When you log into accounts online, go directly to their webpage rather than following a link.
Monitor accounts closely. Set aside a few minutes each month to pore over your bank account, credit card account, and other financial statements. Report suspicious activity immediately.
Monitor your credit report. Check your credit history regularly (once or twice per year), and report unfamiliar activity to the credit bureaus.
Go low-tech too. Cyber crime might be on the rise, but that doesn’t mean criminals never dig through the trash anymore. Remember to shred important documents before disposing of them.
Think of your financial health as you do your physical health. It’s better to prevent problems, than to attempt to fix them after they occur. Stay vigilant against financial fraud, and as always, maintain regular appointments with us so that we can stay on top of your financial strategy.