In 2019, 14.4 million consumers became victims of identity fraud — that’s about 1 in 15 people. In other words, if your chances of winning the lottery were 1 in 15, as are the odds of being an ID theft victim, we would all have family, friends, and colleagues who are millionaires.
Although Entre can’t help you secure a future Powerball prize, we can offer some thoughts on Changing Your Odds when it comes to identity theft statistics. Some good prevention tactics include:
Beware of Mail Theft — Identity thieves often thrive on plucking vital information from your mailbox. Promptly remove your mail. If you’ll be gone for a few days, contact the post office and request a vacation hold on your mail. When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home (unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock).
Protect Your Personal Information — Don’t carry your Social Security card in a wallet or purse and don’t give it out in a public place. Make sure to not house all of your identifying information in one place.
Protect Your Passwords — Make your passwords complex even though it’s a hassle, because that makes them difficult to steal. It’s also important to use a password manager to safely store this information.
The longer the password, the more secure. It doesn’t need to be an unrecognizable mass of letters, numbers, and symbols. It simply needs to be long. Example: If your favorite movie is the original “Star Wars,’’ your password could be … May the force be with you. For another account, you could use May the force be with you @1. For still another account, you could use Mtfbwy@1.
Another simple password strategy? Use a space. Security researchers obtained a list of 550-million passwords and found that only 0.03% of them used a space.
Also, consider using a nonsensical answer to security questions. For instance, you can put your mother’s maiden name as ‘Firetruck.’ No identity thief will ever be able to find it and it is silly enough to be easily remembered.
Check Your Credit Report — By federal law, the three credit reporting bureaus must each supply you one credit report a year. Get one every four months and inspect them carefully, looking for suspicious activity.
Unsolicited Requests — NEVER respond to unsolicited inquiries that ask for personal data such as name, birth date, and Social Security number.
Update Virus Software — Make sure your computers have the latest software available to identify and deal with computer-driven viruses.
Security Freeze/Fraud Alert — To combat concerns about your information being too accessible, you can put a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit report. A security freeze locks out everyone from accessing your credit report (it might come with a $10 fee for each of the three credit reporting agencies, meaning $30 for every time you “freeze’’ or “unfreeze’’ your account). Important: A security freeze does not lock out people who already have legitimate access to it, such as companies you do business with. It does not affect your credit score. A fraud alert, meanwhile, lasts 90 days and tells potential creditors to contact you before granting credit in your name.
Shred — When you discard receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks/statements, and expired charge cards, it’s best to tear or shred them. That can thwart identity thieves who are seeking your personal information.
Beware of Impersonators — The sad truth is impostors are everywhere, whether it’s over the telephone or online. They might sound convincing as they represent themselves as representatives of your bank or credit card company. Don’t believe it! Don’t give out your personal information over the phone or internet unless YOU have initiated the contact and you ABSOLUTELY know the person or company.
Beware of Public Wi-Fi — Portable workplaces are popular, but there could be dangers in setting up your “office’’ in the local coffee shop. With public Wi-Fi, your data could be intercepted by outsiders. So, when you’re at the cafe, airport, library, or hotel don’t conduct bank transactions, make online purchases or enter any sensitive information.
Old Technology Disposal — Be careful when dispensing of your old computers and mobile devices. You should protect your personal information by making the computer hard drives unreadable. When backing up the data and transferring the files, you can “sanitize’’ the computer by magnetically cleaning the disk or using software to wipe the disk clean. Remember to remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from mobile devices.