There is a silver lining in the wake of the news about Target accounts being hacked by crooks. The good news is more people are paying attention to the many devious ways these scoundrels breach security.
Scott Merritt, an expert in identity theft and CEO of the Michigan-based Merritt and Associates, has some very good, updated tips on how to keep personal information safe. People should read and heed the following seven tips:
1. Be aware of where identity thefts can occur. Most occur in places where you do daily business so be careful when divulging any personal information in those places, and make sure you are dealing with reputable people. Try not to enter into transactions you yourself did not initiate.
2. Make sure all of your personal information is consistent. Check information down to the smallest detail. Discrepancies, such as using your middle initial on some documents but not others, or having different addresses, can cause big problems if ever you need to prove your identity. Such mismatched information can also affect credit scores.
3. Change your passwords at least twice a year on a non-scheduled basis. Don’t be predictable. Have a strong firewall if you shop online and only access sites protected by a strong firewall and the highest industry standards. Access accounts of a financial nature only from your at-home computer.
4. Protect your banking information. When in your bank, keep all account numbers and other data out of sight and avoid stating account numbers others might overhear. When planning a bank visit, do all your deposit and withdrawal slips in advance.
5. Photocopy everything in your wallet: photos, credit cards (front and back), membership cards – every single item. Place the copies in the order the items are arranged in your wallet. Place them in a strong box or safe. It’s also a good idea not to carry credit cards in your wallet. Just take them with only when you are going to use them.
6. Account for all interactions with vendors. Every time you do business with someone, write down the time, the date and the outcome of the transaction. If identify theft occurs on the vendor’s end you will be able to trace prior transactions effectively. Also, be sure to note any animosity or reluctance from the vendor.
7. Never carry on your person your birth certificate or Social Security card. Keep them in a safe or firebox. If you know someone will need a copy of your birth certificate or Social Security card, make copies of them ahead of time. That will avoid the necessity of some employee leaving the room with such information and copying it down in some back room.
We hope our readers discuss – and share – these tips with everyone they know. Remember, knowledge is power. And, not to forget, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to identity scams.