Stop! Thief!

thiefcard  thiefphone  thieflicense

If you are or were a customer of Anthem, identity theft is probably on your mind right about now.  I’ll have more on the Anthem data breach later, but for now, it might be a good idea to revisit a Blog entry I originally published in January of 2013.  Here is an excerpt with some practical tips about protecting your sensitive personal data that might be of particular interest to identity thieves.

Taking Care of Your Personal Information

What can you do to diminish the chances that you will become the victim of identity theft?  Here are some pointers:

  • Watch out for imposters!  Make sure you know who is asking for your personal or financial information and why they are asking for it. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or online unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with.
  • Manage your records.  Do not keep paper or electronic records that contain sensitive personal information longer than you need to.  Make sure you store your records that contain sensitive personal information in a secure location.
  • Properly dispose of paper records.  When disposing of paper records, do not throw documents with personal information on them in the trash.  Shred, shred shred!
  • Clear your mobile device before you get rid of it.  Before you dispose of a mobile device (such as your smartphone) check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device properly.
  • Encryption as a tool.  Consider encrypting files or even computer hard-drives that contain sensitive information.
  • Update security features.  Make sure that you update security and antivirus features and install patches on your computer regularly.
  • Monitor your credit.  Monitor your credit with each of the 3 major credit bureaus.  Federal law requires nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free credit report, at your request, once per year.
  • Password protection.  Protect your password the same way you would protect other sensitive personal information about yourself.  Create complex passwords and have different ones for each account if possible.  Do not share you passwords with anyone.
  • Do they really need my SSN?  Think twice (or 3 times!) before you give out your Social Security Number. If someone asks you to share your SSN, ask that person why they need it, how it will be used, how they will protect it, and what happens if you don’t share it with them.
  • Be wise about Wi-Fi.  Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel or other public place, see if your information will be protected.
  • How social should I be?  Do not overshare on social networking websites.  Avoid posting personal information, such as your birth date or address.  Also consider how much you post about your life.  Identity thieves can use what you post to answer common challenge questions on your accounts, such as your credit card.
  • Think you might be the victim of identity theft?  Want to be prepared just in case?  The Federal Trade Commission, the Identity Theft Resource Center and staysafeonline.org provide excellent information regarding what to do if you become a victim of identity theft.