Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim.

With every cyberattack, we’re reminded of the constant vulnerabilities of living in a digital age. Individuals have become increasingly aware of the threat of identity theft, especially in the wake of the Equifax data breach. As the holiday season approaches, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your personal and financial information.

Identity theft occurs when a thief steals sensitive information, such as a Social Security Number, usually for financial gain. It’s a crime that can happen to anyone. However, there are ways to minimize the risk of being attacked, and recovery is manageable. Identity thieves are working relentlessly to gain access to your information – it’s time to put in the same effort and protect what’s yours.

The following tips will help reduce your risk of identity theft and protect your sensitive information whether it’s online, at home, or on the go:

Strengthen your passwords. Passwords must remain unique to each program you use and never shared. A strong password ranges from six to fifteen characters combining special characters, numbers, and capitalization. Avoid common words or phrases. Passwords should not include any personal information and need to be updated every three to six months.

Monitor your financials. Be sure to review your credit card and bank statements on a regular basis for any unusual activity. Request regular credit reports every four months, closely monitoring your credit score. Personal and financial documents, such as old bank statements, should always be shredded in a safe, secure location.

Consider a fraud alert or credit freeze. A fraud alert requires a potential lender to take additional steps to verify your identity before authorizing a request. A credit freeze locks access to your credit report, eliminating identity thieves from obtaining your personal information and opening a new account in your name. Freeze your credit with all three main credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion as well as the smaller one, Innovis.

Fees to freeze your credit vary from state to state. Information for freezing your credit report in the state of Maryland can be found here.

Protect your home computer. Install firewalls and a current subscription to an anti-virus service to your home computer and update regularly. Encrypt and password protect your Wi-Fi connection at home.

Recognize phishing scams. A phishing email requests sensitive information via email. A phisher will impersonate a trustworthy source and request an account number, personal identification number (PIN), username, or password. Pay close attention to the email address and hyperlinks used for these messages – they will not match the company they are imitating.

Stay vigilant while you’re on the go. Password protect your mobile device to avoid company data from being hacked.  Keep your Social Security Number in a safe location, not your wallet. Do not shop or check online financials using a public computer or public Wi-Fi network.

If your identity has been compromised, file a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This can be done online, IdentityTheft.gov, or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

For more information about identity theft, please contact GSG’s Consulting Team here.