Monday, November 25, 2013

4 Easy Steps To Protect Your Identity

Four major areas of your daily life that are frequently used as gateways into your private data, Protect those areas!

It's no secret that the damage caused by a single identity fraud event can take years to fix. Many consumers don't even discover they have been affected until months after the attack occurs. In fact, identity fraud is the fastest growing crime in the world, costing billions of dollars annually.

So what should we do? The ubiquity and anonymity of the Internet, coupled with old-fashioned method of stealing identity via "dumpster-diving" makes this problem unmanageable for average folks, right? Wrong. 

There are four major areas of your daily life that are frequently used as gateways into your private data. Paying attention to them can help you stay safe from the bad guys. 

Tactic #1: Guard Your Mail. 

Pay attention to your physical mailbox to reduce the chance of being victimized. The mail system has been vulnerable since the days of wagon trains and stage-coaches.

Action Steps:

1) Never use the red flag on your mailbox. It notifies potential thieves that there may be something of value left unattended in the box.

2) Lock your mailbox if possible. Fraudsters look for checks, parcels and other valuables in unattended mailboxes.

3) Place your outgoing mail in a mailbox inside post offices whenever possible. Outdoor mailboxes are magnets for mail thieves and mischief-makers.

Tactic #2: Guard Your Unique Personal Information. 

Your personal data points are often referred to by the acronym SNAPD, which stands for SSN, Name, Address, Phone, and Date of birth. Our SNAPD elements are the "coins of the realm" in the financial underworld and your Social Security Number (SSN) is the Holy Grail.

Action Steps:

1) Never share your SSN, name, address, phone numbers, or date of birth with others unless absolutely necessary.

2) Only share your SNAPD information when it is mandatory. Healthcare, government and financial services organizations will often require these details, but you would be amazed how little NPPI (Non-Public Personal Information) you can share without causing a fuss.

3) Paper shredders are crucial. All SNAPD info (at home and in the office) should be disposed of in a nice cross-cut shredder.

Tactic #3: Guard Your Payment Tools. 

You would never think of leaving any significant amount of cash out in the open and unguarded, so why leave your checks, credit or debit cards exposed? Check fraud is an old yet extremely prevalent practice. Credit and debit cards look similar but are governed by different laws, responsibilities, and remedies. It should be obvious that your debit card puts your immediate personal assets at risk as opposed to the risks associated with credit card fraud. 

Action Steps: 

1) Guard your checkbook, credit, and debit cards and closely examine your monthly statement for unauthorized charges (even tiny ones). By promptly reporting any discrepancies, your financial institution can help investigate, minimize or correct any damage done.

2) Regularly review your credit report.

Tactic #4: Protect Your Computer(s). 

Apply protection controls to not only your desktop, notebook or tablet device, but also your smartphone. According to a study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 56% of Americans now own a smartphone, a new demographic referred to as "The Mobile Majority". 

Action Steps: 

1) Install and frequently update anti-virus, anti-malware protection for all devices including smartphones.

2) Create passwords with at least 9 alphanumeric digits, and change them every 6 months. Consider using encryption on all your devices.

3) Exercise good data privacy habits by locking your devices, surfing and downloading safely, and guarding the physical security of each machine.

1 comment:

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