If a fraudster steals your personal information, they can run up charges on credit cards, withdraw money from your accounts, open new accounts in your name, and more. Here are some ways you can prevent identity theft:
Safeguard Your Physical Records
While fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ways of stealing personal information, the tried-and-true method of physical theft is easy to rely on. Identity thieves can do a lot of financial harm with a lost or stolen wallet, mail, or documents you throw away. To limit the chances of identity theft, safeguard important documents at home, such as your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, recent credit union statements, and tax documents. Put these documents in a locked safe. If you throw away any documents with your personal information on them, tear them up or shred them beforehand. Sensitive materials such as credit union statements, credit applications or offers, insurance forms, medical statements, checks, and utility bills can be a goldmine for thieves if they search through your trash. Opting into Compass e-Statements is an easy, secure way to protect your account information.
Additionally, you should consider collecting your mail daily. If an identity thief is willing to steal sensitive data out of your garbage, it’s likely they’re willing to steal sensitive data out of your mailbox. Consider signing up for Informed Delivery, which will notify you with a digital preview of the items being delivered—that way you’ll know if something is missing. If you know you’re going to be away from home for a while, sign up for Hold Mail service. By opting to use this tool, the USPS will safely hold your mail at your local Post Office until your return home, for up to 30 days.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Consider enabling two-factor authentication on all of your accounts. By adding two-factor authentication, accounts can only be accessed after entering the username and password, then by completing another prompt—such as entering a code you receive via text or email or scanning a fingerprint. Without having access to the latter, a fraudster can’t access your accounts.
Don’t Overshare on Social Media
Social media platforms are treasure troves for identity thieves. Not only is it common for someone to share their full name and date of birth on social media, but people are often sharing updates on their whereabouts and interacting with family members. For example, let’s say John Smith makes the following status update, accompanied by a photo: “Hey, everyone! Check out my new car! I’m going to take it for a spin and meet my mom at the dog park. Spike always loves playing fetch!” Under the photo, John’s mother, Jane (Doe) Smith comments, “I can’t wait to see you!” Without John realizing it, answers to common security questions were revealed:
What is the make and model of your first car?
What is your childhood pet’s name?
What is your mother’s maiden name?
Be wary of oversharing online.
If you have questions or if you’re looking for a way to increase security on your financial accounts, contact us at 707-443-8662. As an additional resource, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and create a recovery plan.