Along with life changing benefits that the Age of Technology brings, so too come new threats – one of the biggest being identity theft. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute found that 43% of companies have experienced some type of information breach this year alone. That’s a frighteningly high number, and includes small businesses and big businesses like Target, Home Depot, Goodwill, and just this week Staples.
Go on the offensive. It is your best defense against identity theft.
Know How Identity Thieves Operate
The first step in protecting yourself is knowing where the threats are coming from. The Age of Technology adds new dimension into the threat of identity theft. Understand when your identity is vulnerable and how thieves try to get it:
- Stealing wallets and purses. Under no circumstance should you carry your Social Security card with you or have your number referenced in your purse or wallet.
- Stealing important documents from your mailbox or trashcan.
- Stealing personal information you’ve provided to an unsecured website.
- Running scams in which they convince you to give up your personal information over the phone or internet.
- Hacking corporate or government databases or stealing computers.
- Hacking your email accounts or personal computer to learn your private information.
Use Common Sense Practices
You know better. Kick your common sense practices up a notch and be mindful of the following:
- Again, NEVER carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it in a safe and secure place.
- Shred all personal documents with a cross-cut shredder.
- Equip personal computers with firewall and antivirus software. Consider adding encryption software to secure your hard drive in case your computer is stolen.
- Safeguard all computers, tablets and mobile devices with passwords.
- Check your credit report regularly for changes and activity. Errors on credit reports are more common than you think.
- Review your Social Security earnings statement to ensure reported income is accurate.
- Examine bank and credit card statements for suspicious charges. Some thieves make a living by stealing just a little at a time in random amounts.
- Change your passwords regularly, never use the same password for all logins and accounts. Make your password complex by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
- Never log in to websites containing your sensitive information using a public WIFI. Not only is your username and password exposed, but it’s common for cyber thieves to monitor open public WIFI networks.
- Familiarize yourself with your bank’s and investment company’s fraud protection procedures.
When Is It Ok to Share Your Social Security Number
Oftentimes, companies and financial institutions may ask for your Social Security number to verify your identity when you call them. It is a good idea to decline and ask if you can verify your identity another way. However, there are situations when you should comply:
- Hired for a new job, or applying for one requiring a background check
- Acquiring a credit check.
- Applying for federal or state benefits.
- Opening an investment account or insurance policy.
- Obtaining a professional license.
- Applying for college.
- Filing a federal or state tax return.
- Being asked by law enforcement for additional identification
- Obtain a driver’s license or passport
Identity theft is a serious threat. Fraudsters and cyber thieves are sophisticated and getting more so by the day. We must be disciplined, guarded and vigilant in protecting our information always and in all ways.
At RNP Advisory Services, we focus on every aspect of our clients’ financial needs, including educating on protection against identity theft. If you’d like to discuss your investments, retirement, or changing financial situation, please visit is us at www.rnpadvisory.com or call us at (408) 779-0699.