Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, affecting over 12.6 million people annually. In light of the many recent data breaches that have compromised personal information, it is more important than ever to take steps to actively protect yourself from having your identity stolen.
This month, Community Bank of the Chesapeake will be focusing on providing tips, tools and solutions to help you keep your identity safe and secure. To start, here are some useful steps you can take to keep your personal information just that — personal.
1. Protect your Social Security number at all costs!
Your Social Security number is one of the most valuable pieces of personal information you have, so be sure to take every precaution to safeguard it! Never carry your social security card in your wallet, and only give it out when absolutely necessary. Consider keeping it in a safe deposit box with other vital records until it is needed.
- Review your credit report annually.
You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) each year. An annual review of your credit report will not only help you to ensure that you’re where you need to be credit-wise, it will allow you to see if there have been any fraudulent uses of credit in your name. Contact the issuing credit bureau immediately if you notice a discrepancy of fraudulent activity on your report.
- Avoid over-sharing (on social media, that is).
We live in the age where personal information in all too easy to find, courtesy of social media. Be judicious about the kind of information you share with the public and remember that anything you post on the Internet is there to stay. Keep the kinds of information that would be needed to complete a credit application (i.e. home address, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, etc.) off of your Facebook wall or Twitter feed. And if you’re planning a trip, wait until you come back to post about your out-of-town plans; announcing your home will be left unattended can provide a prospective burglar with a golden opportunity.
- Pick strong passwords.
Having a different password for each account you have may seem like a hassle, but it can go a long way to protect you. Secure everything — your phone, personal computer, tablet — with a strong password comprised of a combination of numbers, letters and special characters. Never give your password out, and change them immediately if you suspect they have been compromised.
- Check your statements carefully.
Diligently reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements can help you stop ID thieves in their tracks before they can cause catastrophic damage. If you notice a fraudulent charge on your statement, notify your financial institution immediately. Online banking helps make this even easier, as you can often review charges posted to your account instantly, so you can check several times a week.
- Be cautious when shopping online
Online shopping is incredibly convenient, but can also be an ideal place for identity thieves to strike. Be sure that the sites you’re using are secured whenever you’re entering billing information. You can authenticate a website’s security certificate for checking that the web address has a green bar around it, or a lock icon next to it. When shopping online, use a credit card instead of a debit card; with a credit card, you are significantly less liable for fraudulent charges, while a debit card compromise could leave your entire bank account at risk.
Don’t wait for disaster to strike—take the steps to protect your personal information today. Check out these suggestions from Deluxe Provent, and talk with your branch manager about how Community Bank’s ID Restoration Service can help you. Visit your local branch or visit our website to enroll today.