It seems that almost on a daily basis we hear about another instance of identity theft, or about some large organization whose computers have been hacked putting their customer’s data at risk. The IRS has even been hit and many taxpayers have been victimized. While this seems to be a fact of life, there are some things that you can do to keep from becoming another victim of identity theft.
Common sense tips to protect your identity
The National Crime Prevention Council and an organization called IdentityTheft.net offer some common sense tips to protect yourself and your family from identity theft.
1. Never give out your Social Security number, and don’t carry your social security card, birth certificate or passport around with you.
2. Copy your credit cards and your driver’s license, and put the data in a safe place, to ensure you have the numbers if you need to call the companies.
3. When you use a credit card to buy something in a retail store, take the extra copy of the receipt with you and shred it.
4. Be skeptical of websites that offer prizes or giveaways.
5. Tell your children never to give out their email address, password, or any other personal information.
6. Make sure you have a virus and spyware protection program on your computer, and keep it updated.
7. Check your account balances regularly to make sure no unexplained transactions have occurred.
8. Consider downloading your bank’s account app and select the option that will alert you each time a purchase is made from your account.
9. Create complicated passwords for your online accounts, and don’t write them down on hard copy paper. Try not to use the same password for every website you access.
10. Use a password app. Here at Bay Point our entire team uses a password app called 1Password. We love it because it stores all of our various passwords and logins in one secure location. It allows us to create strong, more secure passwords which otherwise would be too hard to remember. Best of all, it pre-fills our usernames and passwords on each site with one click. Please feel free to give us a call if you’d like to learn more about this app.
Are identity theft protection services worth it?
It’s hard to watch television and not see a commercial for Life Lock or one of several other identity theft protection services.
Consumer finance expert Clark Howard says that Lifelock has done a good job of raising awareness of the issue of identity theft and capitalizing on this fear. The company recently reached a $100 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission regarding its violation of a 2010 court order regarding how it protects client data and its deceptive advertising practices.
In a 2013 report, Consumer Reports indicated that identity theft services were not worth the money and that do-it-yourself protections were just as or more effective.
If you decide to go with Lifelock or one of their competitors be sure that you understand what they can and can’t do as well as how they actually protect the data that you share with them.
The Bottom Line
Identity theft is becoming far too common these days and cybercrime is an unfortunate outgrowth of everything we do and buy online. It is important to be careful, use common sense and to check your bank and credit card accounts on regular basis. If you find yourself the victim of identity theft, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help.