Take these steps to battle identity theft
Yahoo recently announced that at least 500 million users were hacked back in 2014, making it “the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network,” according to The New York Times.
It’s not just our email that can be targeted. Hackers can attack anywhere. I was recently in a meeting with a client about an estate review and the attorney recommended a revocable trust for the family because assets do not go through probate — meaning they aren’t public and do not go through the court system. Since hackers can target public files, this would keep the family’s financial information protected by keeping it private.
Exactly how frequently is identity theft occurring? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014. As online banking is becoming the most convenient option for many investors, your financial information can be in danger if you don’t protect yourself. Let’s look at a few of the precautions I recommend to my clients.
Be cautious online
Your online accounts are vulnerable, and having a strong password to any profile or email is critical. Often, people use the same password for all of their online accounts, making theft much easier for hackers. Consider using a variety of passwords—each account should have a different password. That
way, if someone figures out one of your passwords, the rest of your accounts are still safe.
Also, make sure you’re selective with security questions on each of your accounts. For example, if your hometown is listed on your Facebook and your security question for mobile banking asks where you were born, a hacker could easily guess the answer. Instead, construct a security question that only you would know the answer to, and something that cannot be found online.
Finally, protect what you post. Limit who can view your profile, as a public account makes you more vulnerable to being hacked. Be especially cautious about what you post while you are traveling.
Carefully manage printed documents
Always shred printed documents with sensitive personal information instead of throwing them away. And when you are sending personal or financial documents, avoid placing them in your mailbox with the flag up, as they can easily be stolen. Instead, drop your mail off at the post office to prevent theft.
Never discuss financial information over the phone
One of the most crucial tips I can offer is to never discuss financial information over the phone. Too often this leads to identity theft. In fact, according to Mainstay Investments’ report, “Identity Theft: When You Are the Target,” phishing, or calling and posing as a financial institution, is a top cause of identity theft. Remember to never post your phone number on social media, and if you do receive a suspicious call, don’t engage with the caller. It’s best to discuss finances in person with your trusted financial advisor, rather than over the phone.
Check your credit
I recommend that my clients check their credit twice a year to make sure no new accounts have been opened in their name. It happens more often than you’d expect, and keeping a close eye on your credit can help you detect suspicious behavior that you may have otherwise missed.
Hackers not only have the ability to invade social media accounts, online banking and emails, but they can also penetrate the security of networks we expect will keep us safe, like the recent attack on Yahoo users. But if you’re especially cautious and attentive, you can protect yourself and keep your sensitive personal and financial information private.