Monday, May 18, 2015

Keeping Your Identity Where it Belongs- With You

Horror stories are abundant when it comes to identity theft. If you haven’t already fallen victim to the slippery tricks of hackers, it is likely that you know someone who has. If the concept of identity theft is new to you, we are about to disrupt your happy place with a measured dose of reality. Your identity will thank us later.

No one is exempt from the threat of identity theft, and luck is no longer enough to save your identity. Forty-four percent of all identity theft and fraud involves online transactions of some form; anyone with a computer or smartphone now has cause for concern. With a little bit of caution and a few heeded warnings, we will help you banish the potential nightmare of identity theft out of your mind and help you gain confidence in your spending. The FTC touts a catchy reminder when it comes to identity theft protection; SHRED.

-Strengthen passwords. Compose differing passwords for each password protected site, each password comprised of a minimum of eight characters with a mix of letters, numbers, symbols, and capitalizations and lowercase. Be sure to update and change your passwords often.

-Handle sensitive personal information with extreme care. Refrain from giving out any personal information unless absolutely necessary, taking particular caution with transactions involving your social security number. Only provide your SSN for tax, credit, or employment reasons, and inquire as to how that information will be used and whether it will be shared with other parties.

-Read credit reports frequently. Using a verified credit reporting service, keep close tabs on your financials and your credit history to ensure no one has obtained your personal information and opened accounts with your name. Track purchases via your online banking system to catch any unfamiliar transactions quickly, and know your pertinent billing cycles. In the event that one fails to reach you, contact the specific creditor immediately.

-Empty your purse or wallet of any non essential personal information such as social security cards, passports, or notes and receipts containing personal information or passwords.

-Discuss identity theft with your friends and loved ones and pass along these tips to help protect others from fraud.

Along with the FTC’s SHRED campaign, here are a few more tips to protect yourself and those you love:

-Reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive in the mail by calling 885-5OPT- OUT

-Be aware of the type and amount of personal information you or your loved ones share over social media. Heavily trafficked sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn contain large amounts of personal identifiers that can be used by hackers and internet perusers alike to authenticate your stolen identity.

-Utilize a firewall, antivirus or antispyware software on your computer, and secure your wireless network. Be aware of any personal information that is stored on your mobile device. Secure your device with a strong password and enable your phone’s autolock feature to protect your identity in the event that it is lost or stolen.

-Shred all documents containing personal information or identifiers, especially documents listing your social security number, bank and credit card statements, medical records and sensitive information. Many communities offer local shredding events.

Mid-Minnesota and Paper Storm are sponsoring Community Shred Days throughout this spring and summer. Stop by MMFCU’s parking lot to have your sensitive documents shredded for free! Take a look at our link to all upcoming events for a complete list of dates and locations for free and secure shredding!

Identity theft does not have to be your reality. By exercising targeted caution, you can stave off potential identity fraud and all of its nasty side effects. Keep your identity where it safely belongs- with you.