A recent news flash had the Russians hacking into Hilary Clinton’s server for the second time and stealing her campaign’s trade secrets. Do you think that just because she’s famous, the same thing can’t happen to you? Think again. There are plenty of ways to scam or steal someone’s secrets and even their whole identity. You’ve probably heard of plenty of people who have died, only to resurface with someone else using their social security, name, birthdate, etc. Perhaps you know someone personally who has been using another name, another bank account, has several passports. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s very hard and time-consuming to get your identity back.
The following are simple ways to protect your own identity:
- Never give out your Social Security number, banking account numbers (checking accounts, saving accounts, credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone except trusted family members.
- Be aware of telephone calls from people pretending to be representatives from the Social Security Office, the IRS, and your Bank asking for that information. The IRS will never solicit payment for back taxes over the phone and the IRS will never ask for your social security number since the office’s database has that information. Similarly, the Bank will only ask to verify your account numbers when you call a designated telephone asking for help. The Bank will not call you and ask you for your account number. If you receive a call like this, tell them you will hang up and call them back on a number you look up. Chances are the call was not from the Bank. It was from someone trying to get your personal information.
- Remember that email and other social media sites are not protected, so don’t give out personal information that way either.
- Only set up online payments with known, respected and validated websites.
- Remember links can be dangerous. If you receive an email with a link, don’t click it. Go the website and download the update from the site. So many people end up with a computer virus that steals their personal information because they clicked on a link thinking they were updating Adobe. Don’t use the shortcuts. Go to the program and use the download link from there.
If you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, notify your creditors so that alerts may be placed on all your accounts. If you’ve lost your credit card, you should call the appropriate company and report it. The card will be immediately locked and a new one will be issued to you.
In the US there are three credit bureaus that monitor the accounts you have and your payment history. When your identity is stolen, it is often so people can pretend to be you and open up new accounts using your good reputation. Sometimes they open these accounts and you don’t even know they are there. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax).