Cashology by FNBO
Steps for Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention
Identity theft. Fraud. Most of us believe it can’t happen to us. But really it can happen to anyone, anytime. Anywhere from 7% to 10% of US consumers are victims of identity theft or fraud every year. And this can have such a negative impact on our lives and financial health, lowering our credit scores and costing us hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So how do can we protect ourselves against identity theft and fraud? That’s the question for today.
Where do we start in protecting ourselves from identity theft? What do we need to do?
- Start with the passwords you use for your online accounts.
- Make sure you create new and unique passwords regularly, every three months or so.
- Make sure you use a different password for each of your online accounts.
- And don’t use easy to remember things like birthdates or pet names.
- More than 40% of internet users use the same password for every account.
- And once someone gets or figures out that password they have access to everything.
- So that’s tip number one – new and unique passwords every 90 days.
- And it’s okay to write them down to keep track of them. Just make sure you keep the list in a safe place at home.
- Don’t keep them on your computer. Keep them on a piece of paper or in a notebook. That piece of paper you keep in a drawer can’t be hacked.
- Beyond that, password protect your home Wi-Fi and keep that password safe, too.
- You always want to be using a secure connection.
What about social media accounts? Do those make us vulnerable too?
- Good question and one not a lot of us think about.
- Whether your social media accounts are private or not, never place any personal information online.
- And especially don’t show pictures of things like credit cards and checks.
- Fraudsters can get account numbers from the pictures.
- And don’t give out personal information in surveys and contests.
- Information like you name, birthdate, children’s names, mother’s maiden name, high school mascot, make of your first car.
- Those things are often used as passwords.
- So when you give up that information you’re giving people a way to guess your passwords.
What about offline activities, when we’re just out and about in the world?
- We need to be careful then, too.
- Don’t leave your purse or your wallet in the car.
- You can end up closing bank accounts, disputing fraudulent charges and stopping payments.
- All because someone to their hands on your driver’s license, checkbook or credit or debit cards.
- Keep those safe with you all the time. Don’t leave them in your car.
- And don’t carry your social security card or birth certificate in your purse or wallet.
- Keep those things in a safe place at home.
- Even a safe deposit box can be a good idea for those documents.
And what about on the phone? What can we do to protect ourselves while on the phone?
- It’s common for a fraudster to call up and to pretend to be someone from you bank.
- So you’ve got to be careful.
- Because you can’t trust Caller ID.
- Caller ID displays can be manipulated.
- They call and say they need to update their files.
- And ask you to give up personal info.
- Don’t do it. Just hang up. And then call your bank on a number you’re familiar with and are sure it belongs to your bank.
- Same thing goes for emails, text messages or pop-up messages on your computer.
- Ignore them. And then just call your bank to see if they really need to talk to you or not.
How do so many people get fooled by these calls and emails and texts?
- A lot of times you’ll get a call or email saying you just won a sweepstakes.
- Or that a loved one is in trouble and needs money quickly.
- Then you’re asked to wire money to a specific account.
- Only later you find out it wasn’t legit.
- So if you get one of those messages and it doesn’t feel right or it’s too good to be true, you can be pretty confident in ignoring it.
- Or you can take some time to verify the organization or caller’s information.
- Whatever you do, don’t wire money to another account without talking to your bank first.
- You’ll need your bank’s help to wire money so tell them how the request came to you and get their input. They’ll help you protect your accounts.
We’ve always have to be on guard these days.
- That’s true.
- Beyond what I’ve already mentioned, another way to protect yourself is to pay your bills online.
- Fraudsters look for chances to intercept mail, especially bill payments.
- If they can intercept a bill payment, they’ll get all the information they need off your check and bill statement.
- Like account numbers and even signatures.
- And monitor your credit regularly and watch for transactions or purchases you don’t recognize.
- Call your bank if you see something out of the ordinary.
- Signing up for Alerts on your accounts can be a good way to protect yourself.
- You can arrange to get alerts for withdraws or transactions.
- You can also sign up for free scam alerts with the federal trade commission at ftc.gove/scams and clicking on Get Mail Updates.