In today’s day and age, it’s almost impossible to be unaware of the dangers of identity theft. Every time you turn on your TV, there seems to be a special report on how thieves have come up with new ways to steal your identity. And if that wasn’t enough to get your attention, all of the commercials for different identity protection services will! However, despite all this, recent research has shown an increase of 1 million new theft incidents since last year – enough to report a new case of identity theft every 3 seconds! With identity theft continuing to be a major threat to consumers everywhere, Townsend Agency your independent Integrity insurance agent, advises you to review your identity theft protection coverage options. In the meantime, please take a few minutes to read through these tips for keeping your identity safe.
Last year in the United States, victims of identity theft lost over $21 billion. This is a result of more financial transactions taking place online, as well as identity thieves continually adapting and improving their fraud tactics.
Use Anti-Virus Software
As consumers spend more and more time online, identity thieves use viruses and harmful malware programs to steal important financial information. Often times, these programs install themselves on your personal computer after clicking on an infected link or downloading a viral email attachment. Once on your computer, these programs use key logging software to store your passwords, track online banking sessions, and search your hard drive for stored financial information. The best way to prevent your computer from becoming infected is to use up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, while regularly scheduling these programs to sweep and clear your computer of any viruses.
Only Carry the Essentials
Though we can all understand the importance of carrying a wallet or purse, some people like to carry around their social security card, all their credit cards, their passport, and sometimes even their birth certificates. While there certainly are a few situations in which you would need to present each of these documents to someone, in most scenarios, it’s overkill. Imagine if you were to lose any of these important documents: someone could find it, begin taking out credit cards in your name, making unauthorized purchases in your name, and much more. To help prevent this from happening, it’s important to only carry around with you the personally identifying items you need the most: your driver’s license, insurance card, debit card, and one credit card.
Beware of Fraudulent Phone Calls and Emails
If someone sends you an email informing you that you’re a distant cousin of a wealthy prince in Zimbabwe, and they need your bank account information to send you a share of his riches, 1,000 times out of 1,000 it’ll be a scam. Likewise, if the phone rings and the person on the other line says they’re a government employee requesting personal information, don’t necessarily believe them right off the bat, because this could be a scam designed to rob you of your identity. The only time that you should consider it safe to give out your personal information is if you were the one who initiated the call/email, and you know it’s a trusted source.
• Scammers go to great extremes to find personal information, even raiding trash! Protect your identity by shredding old personal documents.
Shred Unwanted or Expired Documents
Whenever you get something in the mail, even junk mail, one of the best ways to safeguard your identity is to shred any of the envelopes or documents that have your name, address, date of birth, social security number or account information on them. Scammers have gone to great extremes to get personal information, and they won’t think twice about raiding your trash. In addition, whenever you get a new credit or debit card (or any important document i.e. passports), shred the old and expired ones so that your name, account numbers, and personal information can’t be easily recovered.
Only Shop on Secure Websites
As mentioned before, if you like to participate in online shopping, you should be aware of the very real dangers that exist. While online shopping, in and of itself, isn’t inherently bad, you run the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft whenever you put your credit or debit card numbers online—especially when you use your debit card. Unlike debit cards, credit card users are protected by the Truth in Lending Act, which states there’s only a $50 limit on liability for unauthorized purchases, even after your missing card has been used. As for debit cards, however, you could be liable for only $50, but you could quite possibly lose every cent in your bank account too. That being said, the best way to keep your identity safe while shopping online is to only shop on websites that have the secure lock symbol at the top of the page and that the URL starts with: “https.” If neither one of these security measures are in place, do not shop through that particular retailer on the Internet.
Though it might be your favorite hangout spot, the unsecured Wi-Fi network at your local café is one of the last places you want to review your financial information.
Be Wary of Unsecured Wi-Fi
Though it might be your favorite place to respond to emails, check your Facebook or work on projects, the unsecured Wi-Fi network at your local café is one of the last places you want to review your financial information. Not only are places like coffee shops potentially filled with plenty of wandering eyes, but identity thieves have also become very skilled at intercepting unsecured Wi-Fi communications. Instead, you should put a password on your home Wi-Fi network, and wait until you’re using a secured connection before making any financial transactions.
Despite a large awareness of the dangers of identity theft, consumers everywhere continue to fall victim to scams, thieves, and viruses. However, by following these simple precautions, you can help keep your identity safe and avoid becoming just another identity theft statistic.
Patti Townsend Berra is a La Crosse, WI resident and Independent Insurance agent for Townsend Insurance, in partnership with companies likes Integrity Insurance. Patti is passionate about educating and protecting business and individuals.