Many Americans have taken steps in recent years to protect their personal information, but savvy cybercrooks have overcome some of those defenses. If you have not taken measures to protect yourself, it may be a good idea to consider your options.
For a quick review of how vulnerable you might be to identity theft or fraud, click HERE (updated to 2023 version).
Individuals can take four basic steps to help protect themselves against identity theft. These steps are represented by the acronym SCAM.
S. Be stingy when giving out your personal information. Make sure the person requesting the information is on a "need-to-know" basis. For example, someone who claims to be calling from your bank does not need to know your mother's maiden name if it is already on file with the bank. If you do not feel comfortable with the conversation, consider calling your bank or other institution directly to see if they know about the request.
C. Check your financial information periodically. If you get hard-copy credit card or bank statements mailed to you, consider keeping these documents in a safe, secure location. Be skeptical if it appears the financial institution missed a month. Identity thieves may try to change the address on your accounts to keep their actions hidden from you for as long as possible.
A. From time to time, ask for a copy of your credit report. This report shows bank and financial accounts in your name and may help provide evidence if someone has used your name to open another account. To obtain a report, contact any of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
Every US citizen is eligible to obtain a free credit report from each of the three bureaus on an annual basis by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
M. Maintain good records of your financial accounts and obligations. Retain your monthly bank and credit card statements, either in hard-copy or digital form. Easy access to this information may make it easier to dispute a transaction, especially if your signature has been forged.
Additionally, consider these steps…
Secure Your Phone Data
Think about guarding the information on your phone the way you protect the data on your computer: with security software, data encryption, and a password necessary for basic access. You could also choose two-factor authentication at the websites of the retailers you frequent most; this potentially gives you the same degree of protection you would get with a brokerage or bank account.
Freeze Your Credit Report
You could also elect to freeze your credit report at the major credit bureaus. This is similar to “locking” your credit report with each bureau, for free, which essentially performs a similar function as a freeze. You can “unlock” them when applying for new credit. To learn more, visit Credit Freeze FAQ from the Federal Trade Commission.
Consider Identity Theft Protection
If your identity is stolen, you may face not only out-of-pocket financial loss, but the additional cost of trying to restore your good name. Did you know that if your information has ever been compromised in a breach, you are at least 10 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft? You could consider purchasing identity theft protection insurance that could help insure against all the time it would take to clean up a mess that thieves create and repay you for your losses.
Visit “Identity Theft: An Unemployment Fraud Story” to read about how valuable a cybercrimes addendum became to one of our team members.
The bottom line is that you must help protect yourself. Use caution when sharing your personal information and keep an eye out for warning signs.
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.
The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Published for the blog on October 5, 2020 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.