Identity thieves have only become more creative in finding new ways to hijack personal information and exploit their victims. It seems like every day we learn of yet another new identity theft or fraud scam.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center Internet Crime Report (IC3), losses in 2017 totaled well over $1.4 billion. Identity theft losses alone represented $66.8 million.
While it can feel overwhelming and hopeless, the IC3 says there are some basic yet effective proactive steps every consumer can take.
Skip the public Wi-Fi: Don’t use public wifi especially if you’re shoppingonline, logging into your financial institution, or accessing other sensitive sites. If you must get online when in public places, only visit websites with HTTPS encryption. To prevent your smartphone from searching for hotspots, don’t forget to turn off the automatic Wi-Fi function.
Enable security functions on your phone, computer/laptop and tablets: This is particularly important if you have passwords stored or apps that link to your financial institutions.
Ignore unsolicited requests for personal information: No legitimate business, organization or government entity will ever email, text, call or stop by your house personally to collect your name, birth date, social security number, credit card, checking or savings account numbers.
Monitor your credit report and banking accounts: You can order one free credit report per year from all three credit reporting agencies. Being aware of your balances, purchases, any new accounts opened can go a long way in identifying compromised information quickly. You should be reviewing your statements weekly and don’t just look for questionable big ticket purchases. Some fraudsters like to run “tests” with smaller charges before they go for larger ones. It’s also a good idea to set up automated alerts for transactions over a certain amount.
Get e-statements: You’ll not only be helping the environment, you’ll also reduce the chances of a thief swiping your mail and gaining access to your personal information.
Shred, shred, shred: Again very basic, yet effective. If you insist on paper statements, then be sure to shred them all.