An estimated 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, with 86% experiencing the misuse of an existing credit card or bank account. Approximately 4% of victims had their personal information activity stolen to open a new account or other fraudulent activity (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2015). Protecting your financial accounts and information is extremely important. Here are some steps to help you guard against becoming a victim:
Passwords and PINs —
Create strong passwords that contain numbers, letters, and symbols, and don’t share them or store them on your computer. If you need to write down your passwords and PINs, put them in a secure place. While it can be a hassle, you should change your passwords and PINs on a regular basis.
Keep your computer secure —
It is best to always use your own computer or device to access your financial accounts. Make sure your computer has up-to-date security software, including antivirus, antispam, and spyware detection that is configured for automatic updates.
Completely log out —
After completing financial transactions, always click the log out button to terminate your session. Access to your account may not be terminated by closing your browser or entering a new web address.
Use secure wireless connections —
Only use secure wireless connections when accessing your financial accounts, as they provide much more security than unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Be cautious of using hotspots in public areas, like airports, hotels, and restaurants, because they often reduce their security settings to make it easier to access their wireless networks.
Protect your apps —
If you access your financial accounts through an app on your mobile device, make sure you use the highest security setting available and that your device is password protected.
Check for secure websites —
Most financial institution sites are very secure; but when shopping online with your credit card, make sure the login page indicates that it is a secure site. The address of a secure website connection starts with https instead of just http and has a key or closed padlock in the status bar.
Never respond to e-mails requesting personal information —
If you receive e-mails that request personal information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, or PINs, do not respond to them. A legitimate company or financial institution would not ask you to provide or verify sensitive information through e-mail.
Review your statements —
Make sure to review all of your monthly financial account statements to ensure that all transactions are accurate.
Secure your documents —
Find a safe location to maintain your financial documents. When disposing of any financial information, make sure you shred the documents before throwing them away.
Protect your Social Security number —
You should keep your Social Security card in a secure place and not carry it with you. You should also never use your Social Security number as a username or password.
Check your credit reports —
By reviewing your credit report on a regular basis, you may be able to identify inaccuracies or unauthorized activity. You can obtain a free credit report every 12 months from the three different credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.