Identity Theft: How To Protect Yourself
Identity theft has sadly become much more of a commonplace crime in today’s society than we would wish. One of the worst feelings a person can have is to see that their money for which they have worked so hard in life has been stolen out from underneath their feet. Criminals can use a variety of methods to access your personal information including your credit card numbers, home address, passwords, and other personal information that can be used to access your financial records.
How does one prevent themselves from being a victim of this type of crime? Here are some easy steps that you can do to help yourself stay safer:
- Change your passwords at least every 90 days to any financial account (bank, brokerage account, etc.) Make sure that your password is complex and something that only you would know using a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and other keyboard characters. While this can be a pain, it is one of the easiest things that you can do to protect yourself.
- Keep up-to-date on your finances. Check on a regular basis your credit report, bank statements, and cell phone bill, and other financial records to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions or newly opened accounts that you did not perform yourself. If something seems amiss in one of your records, contact that financial agency immediately.
- Keep an eye on your credit cards. While we may trust a server at a restaurant or gas station attendant, “skimmers” (devices that can steal your credit card number and reproduce them on a different card) have become more commonplace and are dangerous tools that criminals today are using. Many restaurants today are turning to pay-at-table devices that allow for a safer transaction. Also, make sure that any website that you purchase items on provides a safe and secure connection, and that they will not share your information with anyone.
- Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Store it in a safe place in your home.
- Make sure that your firewalls and virus protection on your home computers is secure and up to date. This will allow for safer financial transactions (online shopping), if you decide to do so.
- Never provide your Social Security number or any other financial information to a source that you do not know and trust. Email scams today have risen—Pratt, Kutzke & Associates will NEVER ask you via email for any sensitive financial information. Also, if we are to send you statements or other sensitive information that you request, we will encrypt the document to ensure its safety before we send it out to you.
- Properly dispose of any financial statements in the proper means. This includes crisscross shredding paper documents and wiping all memory sufficiently from any devices (computers, phones, laptops, etc.) before recycling them.
- Protect your mobile device with an anti-virus software from a reputable firm. These apps can be found after researching them online. Also, make sure that your phone has a password or screen lock protection on it—something as simple as that can deter a thief from your valuable information.
- Check with your bank and credit card providers to see if they offer email notifications for purchases over a set dollar amount. Many financial institutions today will notify you via email if a purchase over $100 is made on your account. This will allow you to be aware if a crime against you is in progress. Also, you can check with your bank to verify that they have some sort of monitoring software that looks for suspicious activity—many larger banks today provide this service free of charge.
- If do you unfortunately become a victim of identity theft, file a police report and notify your bank or other institution immediately so they can freeze your account and send you out a new credit or check card. Most banks and credit card providers will reimburse you for any unauthorized transactions if you can provide them with a police report number.
Commonwealth Financial Network (our broker dealer) and Pratt, Kutzke & Associates will always provide a safe and secure connection when you access your personal financial data online. We use the most up-to-date software and other technology available and follow all state and federal laws to keep your information protected. After all, protecting our client’s financial stability, financial futures, and trust is at the forefront of what we are all about.
Commonwealth has other specific measures in place to help safeguard your account. For further information, please click here.
For more information and tips that the IRS suggests you can do to protect yourself against identity theft, you can go to the following link: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft