We would like to share the following principles as a guide to why a proactive approach is so important and helpful:
- Protecting your “good credit history” is no longer a game of defense, and cannot be done with a “hide from the bad guys” approach. Even if you do not go on-line, that is no protection of your identity, or even access to your accounts. This is an active game, and if you do not take some steps to protect yourself, you dramatically increase the probability of being used and financially abused.
- You need not have a perfect strategy and system for protecting yourself. This is more a game of not being the easiest to use and abuse. Make it just annoyingly hard for the bad guys and you will likely avoid most, if not all, of the hardship that others may experience.
Additionally, here are Seven “Basic” Strategies and Practices for you to follow to protect your confidential information, your good credit history, and your assets:
- Know what is personal and confidential information that can be helpful to the Bad Guys:
- High Priority: Birth Date, Account Numbers, Social Security Number (which is on your Medicare Card – Beware), Driver’s License, Passport Number Website passwords and PINs, answers to any web site security questions you have used, current account numbers.
- Moderate high priority: relationships you have with financial institutions, old/closed account numbers, Web site user names, credit card numbers (easy to replace and not your money)
- Consider putting a freeze on access to your credit reports as well. This prevents anyone seeking to impersonate you and get credit from doing so because the credit company cannot get access to your credit reports. You would do this directly with each of the three credit reporting firms. They don't exactly make it easy to find on their websites:
- Experian -- it's in the drop down list for "Support" tab near the top of the page. Click Here to Access
- Equifax -- at the bottom of the page, it's under the heading, "Credit Report Assistance". Click Here to Access
- Transunion -- it's in the drop down list for "Credit Report Assistance" tab near the top of the page. Click Here to Access
- Shred all papers with any High or Moderate High priority personal information. Remember, we offer a drop off shredding service for clients and you may bring in as much as a legal box of papers at a time for shredding.
- If any institution or individual calls you, no matter what they tell you, you do not give out any confidential information or verify any confidential information about yourself. The more insistent they are that you need to give them some information. the more suspicious you must be. You may always call the firm (Credit Card Co., Bank, Lender, etc.) back with the number that you have or that is their publicly published number. Do not use a call back number that the caller gives to you.
Examples of these Scams – there are many more than these:
- A representative from your credit card co. calls you and says that they are calling from the fraud protection department of the firm. You have a credit card with the firm. They say that what looks like fraudulent charges have been placed using your card and they want to determine if this is the case. They ask you if you have the card in your possession and ask you to verify this by reading a bit of information off the card. This is not someone from your credit card company.
- A representative from your mortgage lender calls you and says that they are calling from the payment processing department of the firm. You have a mortgage loan with the firm. They say that your last payment was not processed correctly due to some system problems and they want to help you to fix this before you incur a late charge. They ask you to verify your bank account information so they can match up what may be your payment with your mortgage account. This is not someone from your mortgage company.
- A representative from the IRS calls you….
This is not a representative from the IRS – the IRS will NEVER call you (not ever)
- A foreign police officer calls you …
This is not a legitimate call if they ask for any money or personal information from you
- Whenever you receive an email from a company you do business with, do not click on a link in the email to go to their site and log-in. Rather go to their site by using a password management tool (see below), or by doing a search for the company’s website on the internet. The email may look super legitimate, however, it may not be so and you will go to a web page that looks authentic yet may not be. When you enter your password and User ID, you have just given it up to the hackers who will use it to access your account on the legitimate site.
- For all Website passwords, ensure you have left no easy to hack sites
- Close and disable sites you no longer intend to use.
- Use a minimum 9 digits with both letters and numbers, and use symbols as well when allowed
- Consider using a password management tool such as LastPass, DashLane, LogMeOnce, Sticky Password
- Check all of your internet websites – do not forget your email site which has a hoard of your personal information that may allow a scammer to impersonate you directly with one of your financial institutions
- Do not assume that because you have not established a log-in password for one of your bank or credit card sites that someone else could not, or has not already. If they have some of your confidential information, they may be able to register on that bank or credit card, or even Social Security website as if they are you.
- Pay for things initially with “other people’s money” at every opportunity:
- Consider using credit (not debit) cards for as many transactions as possible. You need not have a high credit limit and can still budget your spending. The credit card firms are watchful of fraud and will credit you back for any fraud you or they detect. When paying for something on line, it is typically not prudent to agree to have your credit card information saved on the site.
- Consider and use on-line banking every opportunity (for virtually every payment you make when not using a credit card). An on-line payment uses a traceable funds transfer (harder for the bad guys to be hidden), or a paper check sent by your bank with account information that is not your account or your signature - so you are not offering that boatload of confidential and useful information if it were to get into the wrong hands.
We hope these are practices and strategies you can and will embrace. We strongly believe these are some of the best to reduce your likelihood of identity theft.