Help Secure Your Personal Information
Last year roughly 16 million households were victims of identity theft. Here are some simple steps you can take to help ensure your personal information stays secure.
1. NEVER click on links in emails from strangers or those claiming to be from a government agency or your bank warning you of a "PROBLEM". By clicking on these links, there is a high probability some sort of malware will be installed on your computer with the ability to steal your personal information.
2. Enroll for free alerts from your bank or credit card companies that will flag you of unusal activity on your accounts.
3. Inquire with your credit companies to see if they have "smart cards" with safer EMV chip technology and/or request a replacement of your card with your photograph.
4. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit card offers by calling (888) 567-8688 toll free or visit optoutprescreen.com. You should also opt out of junk mail and that can be done by visiting dmachoice.org (requests by mail will cost $1)
5. Access your credit report (for free) by visiting annualcreditreport.com By visiting this site, you can request your credit reports from each one of the credit report agencies (Experien, TransUnion and Equifax).
6. Shred any documents which contains your personal information (using a cross-cut shredder is highly recommended).
7. Mail all payments directly from your local post office especially if your mailbox is located on the side of the road. In addition, request to have your blank checks, atm and credit cards mailed directly to your bank and stop by in person to pick them up.
8. Safeguard your personal data on your electronic handheld devices (such as smart phones etc.) by using all the safety features offered. Do not use passwords such as 0000,1111, 2580 or 5555. Search for a free antivirus app and install it on your smartphone.
9. Make all your computer passwords at least 12 characters long. Incorporate numbers, symbols such as # and %, and upper and lower case letters. Use different passwords for different accounts and change them every few months.
10. NEVER provide your perosnal information such as your social security to anyone unless you have initiated the contact.
11. Do NOT carry your Medicare of Social Security card with you unless you have a planned doctor visit. Chances are if you contact the doctor before hand, you can give them your number over the phone and there will be no need to bring the cards with you to your visit.
12. Freeze your credit reports by going to the websites of Experien, TransUnion and Equifax (type in "Security Freeze and follow their instructions) to eliminate the possibility of someone opening up a new account. Fees often run anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on the rules of the state you reside in. However, if you plan on applying for any type of credit, insurance or utility account you will want to wait until you have done so. Fees for freezing your report may be waived if you are 65 or older or you provide proof of past identity theft.
13. Inquire with your Interent provider to see if they offer free antivirus software and set it for automatic security updates and full weekly scans of your computer.
14. Do NOT share your passwords for any of your accounts with ANYONE.