Money Smart Week has officially started, therefore I am going to post about topics this week to help you become smarter with your finances. To kick things off, I thought I would share some tips on how to help keep your identity safe and sound.
What is identity theft?
Simply stated, it is the theft and fraudulent use of another’s unique identification and personal information, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security number, or credit card account number, for unlawful or criminal gain.
According to The Financial Times, college students are five times more likely to become victims of identity theft than any other demographic. Security experts have proposed two reasons for this increased risk: College students are living in very close quarters, making them more vulnerable to theft in general, and most do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Stay ahead of the game and protect your identity with these simple, but helpful tips below:
- Immediately report lost or stolen debit or credit cards
As soon as you discover your card is missing, contact the issuer immediately. Even if you think you may find it in a day or two, they often can place a temporary hold on your card to restrict transactions and give you some time to find that misplaced card. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
- Don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet
A Social Security number is all a thief needs to steal your identity. Instead of carrying it in your wallet, keep it in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box. And of course, don’t keep the number written down in your wallet or purse.
- Never provide your personal information to anyone who contacts you by phone, email or any other way
It’s easy for a con artist to pretend that he or she is a representative of an authentic business over the phone and they may even drop a name that you think is legit. Don’t give into this! Hang up the phone or delete the email immediately. If you provide personal info over the phone, do it only when you are the one initiating the call.
- Use online banking to check your bills and statements regularly
Be on the lookout for charges you didn’t make and if you notice something suspicious, contact your financial institution immediately.
- Check your credit reports at least annually
You are entitled to receive one free credit report from the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian every 12 months. For your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Don’t list your date of birth or your social security number on your resume
There is no reason why potential employers would need to know this information about you at a first glance
- Use your ATM card and pin number wisely
The combo of your card and pin number is like free access to all of the money in your account. Transactions on a debit or credit card can be disputed, but cash can’t often be retrieved. Never write your pin on your card or keep it with your card either.
- Guard your checkbook
You may not use checks very much anymore, but if you ever notice that any of your checks are missing, contact your financial institution immediately.
- Select strong passwords that can’t easily be guessed
Using your birthday or last 4 digits of your social are too obvious to use for passwords or pins. If your identity is stolen, contact your credit union and any other financial accounts you have: credit card issuers, the three major credit bureaus, file a police report and file a report with the FTC.
- Be aware of what you share
With an increasing number of social media sites being used/created, a significant amount of personal information is being shared online that can be used to authenticate a person’s identity. Don’t share or post personal information online, such as your address, phone numbers, SSN, birth date, or birth place.
Unfortunately identity theft is fairly common, but it is possible to help prevent it. If you have any questions or need more information, don’t hesitate to contact us because we are here to help you!
Until Next Time,