Identity theft affecting even our part of the worldA social security number, a password, a credit report or a birth date. That’s all the information someone needs to be able to steal your identity and it may take even less information in the future.
By: By Joe Harrison, Superior Telegram
A social security number, a password, a credit report or a birth date. That’s all the information someone needs to be able to steal your identity and it may take even less information in the future. Identity theft continues to rise both on a national and local level. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as many as nine million American’s have their identity stolen each year.
Despite the alarming statistics that exist about identity theft, often times we assume that it’s not going to happen to us. We get a false sense of security because we live in a small, safe community, or we think our information isn’t worth stealing. The reality is, this crime can and does happen to everyone, no matter the community size or your financial status.
It’s important to also keep in mind that it’s not how much money you may have, but rather how much can be stolen when you’re thinking about protecting your identity. An account may only have $500 in it, but your credit cards may have high spending limits. So, assuming you’re safe because you don’t have much saved is the wrong assumption to make.
To keep yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft, take precautionary steps:
Be careful who you share information with: Identity thieves can come in all shapes and sizes, so if you’ve never heard of the company before, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Remember, while a bank may call and ask you to come to one of their branches so they can ask you some questions about your account, they will never ask you to reveal personal information over the phone.
Monitor credit reports and accounts: By monitoring credit reports and accounts regularly, you could potentially catch someone red-handed who may be using your identity. Carefully review each monthly financial statement, whether it’s from your bank or credit card company. If you notice anything suspicious, call the bank immediately.
Protect information with passwords and locks: In addition to password protecting your computer, make sure all sensitive documents saved on hard drives are protected as well. Change passwords often and never use the same password for all accounts. Secure hard copy information in a locked filing cabinet or a safe deposit box at your bank.
Always report suspicious requests: If you’re questioning an email, phone call or other communication that is asking you to disclose personal account information, call your bank and / or credit card company immediately. Your bank can help you monitor activity with your accounts to make sure information hasn’t been compromised.
Find a bank with additional security options: If you’re not satisfied with the identity protection services available through your current bank, shop around for a bank that has a service that can help you keep track of your information easier, will alert you if there’s any suspicious activity and will also help you recoup some of your losses if you would fall victim to this crime.
Even if you’ve never received a suspicious call, email or letter concerning your personal information, still take some time to talk with a trusted financial representative to learn additional precautionary safety tips. By doing sure, you’ll be assured that you’re doing everything right to protect your information. Remember, you can never be to careful when it comes to your identity and, by being proactive now, you’ll be able to relax knowing your credit lines and accounts are safe from harm’s way.
Joe Harrison is the branch manager at Citizens Bank in Superior.