Unfortunately, I have heard several stories from clients affected by identity theft. The results can include financial loss, fraudulent bills, damaged credit, and the huge hassle of contacting financial institutions and getting the mess sorted out.
Tips to Protect Your Identity
Although there are no guarantees, here are a few common sense steps to help minimize your risk:
- Avoid giving personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
- Don’t open email attachments from unknown sources. If you receive a questionable email, do not click through any links.
- Shred personal financial documents and eliminate paper statements where possible.
- Protect your Social Security number – Never carry your card in your wallet or write it on checks.
- Do not reveal personal information on social media sites.
- Use strong passwords – a mix of letters, numbers and symbols is much stronger than a word or meaningful date.
Even with all the precautions, identity theft does happen. If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, immediately notify affected businesses (like your banks and credit cards) and also alert the three credit rating bureaus.
You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission at consumer.gov/idtheft, or by calling 877-ID-THEFT for further helpful information.
Stay safe out there!