The holiday season is upon us and many of you break out the credit cards, debit cards, and shop online. It is critical that you learn to protect yourself against identify theft.
In September 2015 the Bureau of Justice released statistics that 17.6 million US residents experienced identity theft in 2014. Identity theft includes three general types of incidents:
1. unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account
2. unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account
3. misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose.
It is important that you stay alert and take action to minimize the opportunity to be a victim of identity theft. You can do this in the following ways:
1. Strengthen Your Digital Security: Choose passwords and PINs that no one would guess and make sure you change them periodically. There are randomly-generated password programs online that are virtually unbreakable to assist with this level of security.
2. Protect Your Computer: A strong and regularly updated firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware will provide sufficient protection for most individuals.
3. Beware of Phishing Scams: Phishing are emails you receive that ask you for personal information. Never give personal information via an email. And beware of websites that ask for personal information.
4. Do Not Accidently give-away or sell for identity details: Make sure when disposing of an old computer that you extract the hard drive and destroy it. Just wiping it clean may not be sufficient to remove personal details.
5. Be Careful When Shopping Online: Only shop on websites that have a green lock icon that indicates it is SSL secure and has been vetted as a legitimate site. Also use a separate credit card which has a low limit on the card. And never choose to store your payment info on a shopping website.
6. Check all Statements and Correspondence: Every month when you pay your bills make sure you are looking over your statements for any unauthorized charges and report them, no matter how small. Stay alert to mail you receive at your address that is not yours.
For more information on this topic and other Personal Finance topics, contact us at Leveraging Financial Knowledge, LLC. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lesley F Katz, CPA, is the founder and owner of Leveraging Financial Knowledge, LLC. With over 20 years of experience in industry and public practice, Lesley is driven to share that knowledge, and motive people to take control of their financial lives.