Ryan Insurance & Financial Services

Tips to protect your identity

Oct 31, 2017

We all hit the delete button when we see a plea from a Nigerian emissary promising us big bucks if we’ll just share our bank account number.

Unfortunately, most identity thieves are craftier than the crooks in Nigeria. They use cunning and high-tech methods to steal our most valuable commodity – our identity.

Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to open accounts, file taxes or make purchases. In 2016, $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million Americans (6 percent of the population). 

Your first line of defense is to request a free credit report from the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experion and TransUnion. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com.

Next, consider placing a freeze on your credit report. This will prevent new credit from being opened in your name. Contact each of the three credit agencies online

To stay one step ahead of the identity thieves, make these practices a part of your everyday life:

  1. Be alert for phishing scams. Hang up on telephone solicitors, don’t click on links in email messages, and stay away from shady websites. Keep in mind that thieves often claim to represent reputable institutions, including Microsoft, PayPal or your bank. 
  2. Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and frequently. If your bank offers a service that alerts you to charges, sign up. Look for suspicious charges and challenge them. 
  3. Secure your devices. Protect your computer and smartphone with firewalls, anti-virus software and strong passwords.  
  4. Store your important documents in a safe location. Shred them when you no longer need them. 
  5. Don’t post identifiable information on social media. This includes your date of birth, mother's maiden name and pet's name.
  6. Protect your Social Security number. Don’t give your number to strangers. Don’t carry your card in your wallet.

If you think someone is using your personal information, file a report at www.IdentityTheft.gov

In September, Equifax reported that a data breach had exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans. To find out if you were affected, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact.

Securing your identity is successful with daily diligence and attention. Don't be a statistic -- takes these steps to keep your ID safe.

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