Almost daily, we hear about a major data breach, computer virus, phone scam or other form of identity theft. Plus, it‘s almost impossible to do business and not expose personally identifying information—names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other account numbers—with stores, restaurants, financial institutions, health care providers, schools, employers and many others. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can put you at risk for identity theft. Security analysts suggest that virtually everyone will become a victim at some point.
Simply limiting when you share your Social Security number can go a long way in avoiding fraudulent activity. Avoid carrying your Social Security card on you, and don’t give it out unless it’s essential. For instance, many medical facilities ask for it, but you are not legally obligated to provide it.
What else can you do to protect yourself from identity theft?
Other steps you can take to protect your identity include:
- Watch your mailbox. Install a locking mailbox and place your outgoing mail in a post office box. Mail theft is often a source of stolen personal information.
- Monitor your accounts. Review transactions on your bank and credit card accounts to ensure they have not been compromised.
- Monitor your credit report. Access your credit reports free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Commercial services are available, which do this for you, but their reviews are mixed. Respond immediately if personal information has been compromised. If the data includes your Social Security number, take extra measures.
- Be smart. Use caution on the Internet: don’t click on unfamiliar links, open emails from unknown senders or input personal information on unsafe websites. “Phishing” emails induce you to enter personal information on fraudulent sites. Never provide personal data to an inbound caller or email. Simply request a phone number and verify that it’s legitimate.
- Don’t be too social. Be discriminating about data you place on social media, like Facebook. Avoid posting your date of birth, a pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Banks and other sites often use this information to confirm your identity.
- Shred. Shred. Shred. Use a confetti-type paper shredder for documents with personal information.
- Be careful with wireless networks. Ensure your wireless network is secure from hackers. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, any information you transmit is potentially exposed.
- Secure your online accounts. Set strong passwords with letters, numbers and symbols; don’t use the same one for all of your sites; and, add optional security questions that don’t have answers that can be found in public places, like your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.
These steps can better protect your data from thieves, both online and offline. Most cost nothing, and many of them just make common sense. When we are complacent, we become an easy target for fraud.
For informational purposes only. Not intended as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security or strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Information prepared from third-party sources is believed to be reliable though its accuracy is not guaranteed. Opinions expressed in this commentary reflect subjective judgments of the author based on conditions at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. For more information about Wealth Dimensions, including our Form ADV Part 2A Brochure, please visit https://adviserinfo.sec.gov or contact us at 513-554-6000. Please be advised that this material is not intended as legal or tax advice. Accordingly, any tax information provided in this material is not intended and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.