Identity theft is on the rise in the United States. According to the IRS, 2013 saw record levels of identity theft. Almost all of us know someone who has had their identity stolen. Follow these ten tips to stay smart and keep your identity to yourself.
1. No one from your bank will call you to ask for your social security number or anything else. They already have all of your information. If your bank, or any other financial institution, needs to know your private information, they will not call you to ask for it. When in doubt, you should call the bank, rather than them calling you, so you know exactly who you are talking to.
2. No one from any bank will ask for your log in information. They already have it, they are the bank. If anyone asks you for login information other than a bank or trusted financial planning site like Personal Capital, you know they have bad intentions.
3. You did not win a lottery in the United Kingdom nor did a dead person in Nigeria left you a fortune. If someone says that you will get lots of money and only need to wire or send them a smaller amount to get access, they are lying. I know many of us can recognize these scams, but many people fall for them each day.
5. Make sure your browser https, rather than just http:, when you sign into online banking or any website dealing with your money. The s stands for secure and indicates that the site is using Secure Socket Language (SSL) to ensure your transmission across the web is encrypted. If you don't have an SSL connection and use public wi-fi, anyone can access and steal your information. Your info can also be picked up by a clever hacker, but SSL keeps you safe.
6. Shred any mail that has your name and address. Most importantly, shred credit card applications. All someone really needs to cause you a headache and possibly cost you a lot of money is your name and address. They can make up the rest. When I worked in the bank, I once had to help a customer who had their identity stolen exactly this way. I have the Royal HG120 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder in my home office.
7. Make a list of all of the cards you carry in your wallet or purse. Keep it somewhere safe so you can cancel your cards immediately if they are ever lost or stolen.
8. Keep your numbers and log ins secret and extremely hidden. You do not need to make it easy for people to steal your info. That means do not write your PIN on your ATM card and do not have a file on your computer called “passwords.” Be smart and keep everything secure. I use LastPass with 2 factor authentication to keep my passwords safe and secure.
9. Do not log in to a secure site that has your important information on a public, non-secure wireless network. Keep your banking and shopping to your secure, home wireless network or a wired network you trust.
10. Don't worry too much. If you are smart, you have little chance of having identity theft happen to you. Just be diligent and smart.
Image by Don Hankins / flickr