Updated: Jan 24
Thought you'd considered it all when it comes to emergency prevention and disaster preparedness? Well, if you really want to get serious about this, you might want to consider a few more things that will help you feel like you've done everything you can to protect yourself and those you love. If you haven't already done so, check out our Feeling Safe in a Shaky World series for the basics of emergency planning. Then, come on back here to read about even more ideas to consider!
Always cancel your credit cards if they are stolen! Check your credit reports and billing statements every six to twelve months to stay aware of any false accounts and unusual charges.
A general tip: Do not use your social security number on your accounts. Nearly every business will allow you to substitute that identifying number with a separate password. It is easy to apply for a Federal Tax ID number to use in place of your social security number. This will greatly reduce the chances of your social security number being used to steal your identity.
Do not carry your social security card in your purse or wallet. It should never be with you unless you are planning to use it for specific business that day. Anyone with your social security number can access most of your information—so keep it in a safe and secure place.
PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM IDENTITY THEFT
Be aware of the potential for the identity theft of your children. If you receive unsolicited mail in your children’s names, their identity may have been stolen. Child identity theft can go undetected for years. The identity theft may not be discovered until your child is old enough to apply for a credit card, loan, or other financial service on their own. It is possible that your child’s identity could be stolen and used for YEARS before anyone is aware or thinks to check it. This creates a web of false credit history for your child that could take years to undo and leaves major problems that can negatively affect your child’s finances as they try to establish a credit history of their own.
Always pay close attention to the ATM and your surroundings. Don’t let anyone look over your shoulder as you enter you PIN.
Use only secure bank ATM machines, if possible.
Convenience store ATMs, and many like them, have fewer security protections than secure ATM machines.
Never use a common number as your pin. Do not use your date of birth, phone number, street address, or any other easily identifiable information. When choosing a pin number, create one that is entirely random. This will help prevent access to your accounts.
**Never count your cash at the machine or in public! Wait until you are in a secure place!
Closely monitor your bank statements and balances. Immediately report any problems to your bank.
Always use the recommended Firewall and Browser Security settings on your computer.
Whenever you shop online, look for a "padlock icon" on the checkout page. This is proof that the site uses an encryption system on all personal data. Look for “https” in the URL. This is another guarantee of site security.
Do not store credit card information online. It will take a few extra moments to fill in your information each time, but taking this small extra precaution will keep your information secure. To increase your online security, use one card exclusively for online shopping. If your online information is accessed, only one card will be compromised. This will save you time and trouble and help keep your other accounts safe. It is recommended that you use a credit card and not a debit card for online purchases. This will protect your bank account should someone access your card information.
As with all of your passwords, make any online password difficult to crack. Never use any other personal number for your password (birth date, phone number, street address number, or social security number) as your password. Keep all passwords unique, and do not reuse them for more than one account.
Do not open junk email. One of the main sources of computer-destroying viruses comes through in the form of attachments to junk email. Have a (good) junk mail screening program for your email and do not open or respond to any email from an unknown address. Be aware, that aside from destroying information, many viruses are created with the purpose of hacking into and stealing the personal information stored on a hard drive. Don’t take the chance!
When in doubt, just say "no" to social media invitations from people you don’t know. Lock down your social media accounts and regularly monitor the privacy settings menu and think twice before you divulge any personal information!
Protect your computer by spending the money and time to keep your antivirus software up-to-date. Hackers improve their skills every day. Your security must stay ahead of them to protect you.
As with phone scammers, stay aware of potential criminals trying to access your information via email. Known as “Phishers,” they will pretend to be contacting you from one of your online accounts and ask you to supply personal information to confirm your account. You could be supplying the information for them to fraudulently access your accounts.
When upgrading to a new computer, make sure to entirely erase your hard drive. Many computer-savvy individuals can retrieve deleted information. Make sure to protect yourself by completely destroying any personal information. There are several downloadable programs that provide this service.
Make sure you password protect your phone or tablet and set them to "auto-lock." Set up your cellphone with a feature that will "Wipe Your Phone" of personal information if it is stolen.
Certain apps often share your personal data. Make sure you delete any app you don’t use or don’t remember installing. Most of us use our cell phones for long distance calls. If you are using a calling card and do not have the number memorized, beware of anyone near you who could register the numbers on the card you are holding or memorize them as you dial.
Cell phones give most of us a sense of privacy that simply isn’t there. Do not discuss your personal or financial details via cell phone in public. Anyone near you could hear this personal information and could possibly use it fraudulently.
Have an unlisted phone number. One of the most commonly used identifying pieces of information for your various accounts is your phone number. A listed number guarantees that criminals could simply pick your name, number, and address out of a phone book to access accounts.
Never give out personally identifying information if you did not initiate a call. Many criminals will call you claiming to be from a credit card company, the phone company, or other accounts. They ask you to verify that you are the account holder and ask you to give them your name, address, social security number, and account number. You may unwittingly give a criminal all the information they need to steal your identity.
Make sure to list your home, business, and cell numbers with the National Do Not Call System. Contact www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 to block your number. This will greatly decrease the number of unsolicited calls you receive, hence reducing the number of potential scammers attempting to access your information.
Be sure to block numbers for elderly relatives. They are especially susceptible to phone scammers.
Keep your phone number and personal information off newsletters and other solicitations that could be sold to other businesses. This includes online newsletters. The more places your personal information appears, the greater the chances that information could fall into the wrong hands.
One of the easiest ways for a thief to steal your identity is through the mail. A mailbox that is not secured gives a thief easy access to important personal information almost daily. Paychecks, bills, monthly statements, and other paperwork can supply a criminal with all the information they need to access your accounts and make charges. To prevent this problem, USE A SECURED MAILBOX. A lock-box, a post office box, or other secure mailbox is necessary in today’s day and age.
Do not have paychecks sent to your home mailbox if it is not secured. Ideally, all checks should be direct deposited to your account. If this is not possible, use a secure mailbox.
Never have new checks sent to your mailbox. Always pick them up from your bank in person. Thousands of dollars could have be spent from your account before you even notice the checks haven’t arrived!
When opening a new account, create a unique password. If one of your accounts is illegally accessed, your other accounts will remain secure if they each have a unique password.
Do not sign up for newsletters or special offer updates. These services make your information more widely available and more easily accessible for criminals.
A secure online bill-paying service can be a wonderful tool.
Always check your bills and monthly statements for any fraudulent charges. Instead of throwing away any mail with any identifying information . . . SHRED IT!
Many identity theft cases can be traced back to information found in the trash.
Visit www.dmaconsumers.org and register with the Direct Marketing Associations Mail Preference Service. This will stop MOST junk mail from being delivered to your address.