Identity thieves and scam artists are relentless in finding ways to steal your personal information and your money. Follow these five security-enhancing steps to help make their jobs more difficult:
Protect your computer and other devices. Start your defense by installing software to guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious bugs. These digital assaults can steal your personal data or to direct you to bogus websites. Remember to update your cyber protection regularly on all your devices. In addition, don’t use free Wi-Fi when accessing any sensitive data or making transactions with your devices. Create unique passwords or use password management software to safeguard your online accounts.
Clean out your wallet or purse. Make sure you’re not carrying PIN numbers, passwords, or account numbers around with you. If you are, anyone stealing your wallet or bag will have open access to your accounts. Sign the back of all your cards, so that it can't be signed by a scammer. Also, keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home, not in your wallet.
Obtain a free copy of your credit report. You can order a free copy of your credit report from at least one of the three major agencies from the Annual Credit Report website. Review it for mistakes, accounts you don’t recognize, or strange credit inquiries. If you find something wrong, report it immediately.
Use your phone number sparingly. It's a good idea to add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. If a solicitor calls anyway, ask to be put on their “do not call” list and then hang up.
Be aware of phishing attempts. Phishing refers to bogus correspondence that aims to trick you into disclosing personal or financial information. Phishing scams can come in many forms including e-mails, phone calls, postal mail, or text messages. The scam may claim to be from many trusted sources such as a bank, retailer, or government agency. But always beware when they ask you to update or provide personal account information.
You might also get a call or message from someone claiming to be a bank security officer who wants to confirm your PIN. Never reveal personal data online or over the phone unless you initiate the contact, and you can confirm the identity of the recipient.
Remember, the IRS won’t initiate contact with you by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information.
By following these and other important steps, you can greatly decrease the risk of becoming a victim of a scam or crime. If you have concerns over any suspicious correspondence, please contact our office for guidance.