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Q&A with R&A – How can I protect myself from identity theft?

| October 16, 2018
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These days it seems like every major company is getting their data stolen. It seems like just yesterday a major data breach like Target or Equifax would take up an entire news cycle, but now the news outlets don’t even keep up. It has become commonplace. Sadly, with all this data being stolen it is very likely that almost everyone reading this blog has their data in the hands of someone they don’t want. However, “data” can mean anything from your email address to your social security number, so it is important to protect what counts, knowing that some will get lost.

Am I at risk?

Yes, if you have ever entered any personal information into a computer or even written it down on a piece of paper than you are at risk of identity theft. However, just like investing, there are varying degrees of risk. We all make choices that can increase the risk or decrease the risk of identity theft. Think about the below actions, the more you do (or don’t do) the higher your risk of identity theft:

  • Do you throw away credit card offers, bank statements, prescription pill labels, and receipts? All these common pieces of mail should always be shredded. Don’t have a shredder, check out our annual shredding day in April!
  • Do you send outgoing mail from home? Intercepting mail is a non-digital, and still very common, form of identity theft.
  • Do you ask how service providers will protect your social security number or the photo copy of your medical ID card? Just like how you needed a plan to protect yourself, your service providers need a plan to protect you as well.
  • Do you carry your social security number or military ID in your wallet? If you misplace your wallet your information will be at risk.
  • Are you required to use your social security number as an employee ID number or password?
  • Have you neglected to read the privacy policy statements of the banks and financial institutions you work with?
  • Do you share your location or personal information on social media sites?
  • Do you forget to logoff when accessing online banking or social networking sites from a shared computer?
  • Do you use public Wi-Fi to access your private account?
  • Did you forget to set a passcode on your phone that activates after a short period of inactivity?

While this list may seem to be a lengthy one, it is important to remember that bad actors focus on the low hanging fruit. Anything you can do to make it a little harder on a cybercriminal, the more likely it is that they will choose easier prey.

What should I do if I am a victim?

Like a good financial plan, a good plan to defend against identity theft is invaluable. We recommend the following steps:

  1. File a police report and keep a copy as evidence
  2. File a fraud alert with the national credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This is also known as a credit freeze, and requires lenders to call you to verify your identity before granting credit.
    1. Equifax – 800-685-1111
    2. Experian – 888-397-3742
    3. TransUnion – 888-909-8872
  3. Notify all financial institutions with which you do business, cancel and order new credit and debit cards, and stop payment on outstanding checks.
  4. File your case with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). The FTC enters all complains into a database that is used by law enforcement.
  5. Send creditors a copy of your ID theft report.

While identity theft can be inconvenient at the best of times and downright scary at its worst, there are ways you can help prevent a theft and prepare yourself for an incident. If you have any questions about how Rocco & Associates or LPL Financial protects your data please don’t hesitate to give us a call, we are happy to discuss. 

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