Avoiding Identity Theft

It was a Saturday afternoon when I received a phone call with a pre-recorded message informing me that my debit card had been deactivated. I was then directed to “press 1” for more information. While I was hoping to be transferred to a call center, to learn what debit card was affected and understand my next steps, I was instead prompted to enter in my 16-digit card number.

This was a phishing scam that I’d never been faced with before.

Because you never know when you’ll be on the receiving end of a call like this, here’s a refresher about how to avoid being phished and what preventative measures you can take to avoid identity theft and keep your accounts safe.

Protect Your Information.

While you may be optimistic, you can’t always trust that you are talking to someone who is reputable. That’s why you should NEVER give out Social Security, Driver’s License, Debit, Credit or Check Card numbers over the phone. Make sure that when you are shopping online, that it is within a secure site. Although many big-name sites, like Amazon, offer to save your information to speed up the checkout process, it’s best to avoid saving your personal information. After all, if your account is hacked, someone could go on a shopping spree while you foot the bill.

Check Your Credit Report.

Review your credit report, at least annually, for FREE at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look for unfamiliar transactions or accounts – credit cards, loans or an unexplained dip in your credit score. Consider a credit report monitoring service to receive notifications any time your credit report changes and stay up-to-date with any actions that you would not have taken yourself.

Do your best to stay safe and keep up with new scams so you do not fall victim to the thieves out there in the world. There are other ways that you can be vulnerable online so check out the previous post on 5 Ways to Help Prevent Identity Theft for additional online tips. Apple’s Fraud Prevention section also offers access to the latest fraud news, safety tips and advice.

 

Malmberg, Jim. “A Basic Primer on Identity Theft” Fraud Avengers. 15 May 2014. 09 Jul 2014 <http://fraudavengers.org/2014/06/a-basic-primer-on-identity-theft/>.

5 Ways to Help Prevent
Identity Theft

In this day and age, large retail companies and social media sites are not immune to an occasional security breech. In the shadow of these events, you may start to wonder, “What can I do to protect my identity?”

 Here are a few simple things you can do today to better protect yourself from fraud, phishing, identity theft and hacking.

Choose good passwords and PINs. Try to choose words or numbers that no one else would be able to guess and do not use the same password on multiple accounts. Sometimes you can switch numbers and letters to make it a harder password to crack. Use an “@” instead of an “A” or a “$” instead of an “S.” The options are limitless. For example, take a look at how we turned this blog name, HowAboutThemApples, into a super safe password, H0w@b0utThem@pp1e$.

Protect Your Computer. Just because you cannot see anything wrong with your computer does not mean that it is safe to use. Hackers use programs and spyware which allow them access to your PC. You can protect yourself with anti-spyware programs that will add a layer of protection and your personal documents.

Don’t Go Phishing. Phishing scams are generally “spoofed” emails and fraudulent websites specifically designed to fool recipients into releasing personal and financial information.  Emails that are sent to you asking for your social security number or credit card information are never okay. Be suspicious of any email that is marked “urgent request” and asks for your personal information. If you are not sure if an email is authentic, do not follow the links in the email. Do not complete emailed forms that request personal information. Double check that websites you are submitting your credit card or personal information through are secure. You can either do this by checking for the padlock that appears at the bottom right of your screen, or look for https:// to appear in front of the web address.

Don’t Accidently Give Your Identity Away. If you sell or trash your PC, restore your PC to factory default to ensure all of your personal data is cleared. You’d be surprised what hackers can find buried in your hard drive.  If you are not sure how to properly clear your PC, take it to a retailer who specializes in computers and ask for their help.

Be careful shopping online. Consider a separate credit card strictly for online purchases. It will be easier to cancel if there are any issues and it will have less effect on your day-to-day life. Do not store any information on a store website. Although it may be convenient, it can be a huge loss to you if the site is ever hacked. Monitor the site URL. Look for the lock symbol or “https” to appear before the site address. These symbols verify that the site is safe.

These steps should help you feel more secure whether you’re simply surfing the net, checking email or making an online purchase.