In today’s interconnected world, it seems like you hear stories every day of people who have been victims of identity theft. There are many ways your identity can be comprised. Sometimes people unknowingly give out their details thinking that a legitimate company they have business with needs the information. Or, what we see more and more is that places where you have personal information stored are breached by hackers, who take your information and commit fraud.
Once your identity has been compromised it can be quite a nuisance and stressful time to clean up the mess left behind. So, what can you do to help protect yourself from identity theft? According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are a number of actions you can take to protect your identity both offline and online.
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Offline
When most people think of identity theft, they only think of online risk. People often forget about "offline" theft of their paper documents, mail, wallet, etc. Here are a few some helpful FTC reminders to keep your "offline" identity safe.
Keep your information secure. Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you — unless you are going to use your card at the doctor’s office.
Don't just share your information. Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
Don't keep old documents if you don't have to. Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
Don't throw your information in the garbage. Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.
Use the Post Office mail boxes. Take outgoing mail to post office collection boxes or the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Online
The number one rule for securing your identity online is knowing who you share your information with. Make sure you store and dispose of your personal information securely.
Be alert to impersonators. Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, type the company name into your web browser, go to their site, and contact them through customer service. Or, call the customer service number listed on your account statement. Ask whether the company really sent a request.
Safely dispose of personal information. Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device.
Encrypt your data. Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
Keep passwords private. Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.
Don’t overshare on social media. If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
Avoid phishing emails. Don’t open files, click on links or download programs sent by strangers. Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type.
Be wise about wi-fi. Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
Lock up your laptop. Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information.
All of this can feel quite daunting but there are people who can help you protect and watch your identity. ABA partner LifeLock, Inc. is the industry leader in identity theft protection. They work relentlessly to protect members from identity theft so you can live freely with confidence in an always-connected world.
Since 2005, LifeLock has been a leading provider of proactive identity theft protection services for consumers and identity risk assessment and fraud protection services for enterprises. LifeLock has unique detection capabilities that scan over a trillion data points every day looking for threats to their members’ identities. Their patented alert technology provides the opportunity to confirm a member’s identity before a new account such as a retail card or new wireless phone is opened with their information. LifeLock also offers transaction monitoring and data breach notifications. In the event that identity theft occurs, LifeLock provides award-winning resolution support with member services agents who are available 24/7 and a certified resolution specialist who will handle a member’s case every step of the way.
For more information on how LifeLock can help you, click here.