According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity fraud hit record highs in 2016 with 15.4 million victims. That’s an astonishing 16% more victims than 2015! The amount fraudsters took in rose to nearly $16 billion. There are several common types of identity theft that can affect you. Some of these include: child ID theft, tax ID theft, medical ID theft, senior ID theft, social ID theft, credit card ID theft, bank ID theft, and credit ID theft.
To reduce the risk of your identity being stolen, here are a few simple practices that anyone can start doing today to safeguard against identity thieves:
- Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your SSN on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender as soon as possible. Also, review your monthly statements and watch for any unauthorized transactions.
- Store any personal information in a safe place at home or at work. Be cautious when storing sensitive information on your digital devices.
- Create strong passwords. Make your password at least 12 characters long, include numbers, symbols and capital letters. Be sure to change your password on a regular 90-day basis and avoid using the same password across multiple sites.
- Order your credit report once a year and review it to be certain that it doesn’t include accounts that you have not opened and to make sure there are no errors. You can go to: annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit report.
- You can choose to block your social security number if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. When you do this, no one, including you, will be able to see or change your personal information on the Internet or through an automated telephone service.
- Make sure your devices are updated. This includes both computers and mobile devices. If you see there is an update available for your device, don’t put off installing the recommended updates.
- Don’t install apps on your mobile devices that request excessive permissions. Be sure to carefully read the app’s requested permissions and only download apps from reputable sources such as iTunes and GooglePlay.
- Use Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology when using public Wi-Fi. Do not transmit any sensitive information over public unsecured Wi-Fi connections.
- Never open an email from an unknown source. These could contain harmful viruses. Once your computer is exposed, it can be very difficult to remove the virus and regain control of your computer.
- If a website looks fishy, it probably is. Check with the Better Business Bureau if you are unsure.
- Install the latest antivirus software on your personal computer and update it regularly. Find a product that has anti-phishing software and firewall included.
- Never give any information over the phone to a random caller. If a caller says he/she is calling on behalf of a bank or credit card company, hang up the phone and call the company back directly to verify.
- Only send outgoing mail directly through the post office. Collect incoming mail from your mailbox as soon as possible. If you’re going to be out of town, ask your post office to put a hold on your mail. Mail sitting for days in a mailbox is a risk.
- Never simply throw away important documents. Be sure to shred anything that contains sensitive information.
- Examine your bank statements closely for abnormal activity.
- Think about opening an account with an identity theft prevention agency such as LifeLock or Identity Guard.
- Look into buying a wallet or purse that blocks RFID signals. This could help if a scammer tries to gain your credit card information.
- Consider using Apple Pay or Google Wallet when making purchases to avoid having your credit card hacked.
Identity theft doesn’t have to claim another victim. At Kennedy Financial Services, we strive to offer the best services and practices for our clients so they can continue living life on purpose. We continue to stand vigilant so that your information and well-being is always protected. Please take these steps to ensure that your identity is never compromised. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”