Protecting Your Identity

Protecting your identity these days is a must! Consider these tips to help keep your personal information safe and secure and protect you from identity theft:

1. Strong Passwords: Remember to create a strong password, by avoiding common or easy-to-guess passwords. Common passwords often include a birth date, a pet’s name, a mother’s maiden name, or a person’s school or work. A safer password usually has some capital letters and at least one numeric or other non-alphabetical character. From time to time, it is important to change commonly used passwords.

2. Be Aware of What You Share on Social Media: Between the increasing numbers of social networks, from Facebook to Twitter, and LinkedIn to Google+, a significant amount of personal information is being shared online that can be used to authenticate a person’s identity. Don’t share or post personal information online, such as your address, phone numbers, SSN, birth date, or birthplace.

3. Keep Financial Documents Secure. Most people store personal and financial information on their computer. If you do, it’s important to protect your computer by installing a firewall, using anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keeping your browser updated, and securing your wireless network. If you are disposing of financial or tax documents, make sure you shred them, and if you are keeping hard copies of your records, store them in a safe location. Never carry around your Social Security card.When it is time to purge your old records, always shred them.

4. Watch Your Email: You may get an email that looks like it is coming from your bank or PayPal asking you to reset your log in or that your account was compromised. Never click on them and always be aware of the url, it must show your bank .com or along with an SSL lock icon on the address bar. These are called phishing emails.

5. Check Your Credit Report. You are entitled to one free credit report each year, which is compiled from information from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Take advantage of the free report in order to catch any errors or fraud. If any information has been compromised, set up a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus to put a security freeze on your files and information.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, it is important to put a hold on bank and credit accounts, change commonly used passwords, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Providing the FTC with an overview of what information has been compromised allows them to build a case for any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the FTC cannot get back any money lost, but can help safeguard against further fraudulent activity and conduct an investigation into any hacked information.

In addition, if you think a fraudulent tax return has been filed with your SSN or you may be at risk due to such events as a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

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