How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

Maribeth Wright | April 11th, 2013

“Interested in credit card theft? There’s an app for that.”

Those were the recent words of Gunter Ollmann, a technology security consultant. To Mr. Ollmann’s point, identity theft is getting easier and easier to perpetrate. Identity thieves are using the internet to find victims and steal their private data.  But, the use of technology swings both ways; consumers are increasingly using it to protect themselves and their identities.  Here are some on- and offline steps you can take to protect yourself from those trying to gain access to your data:

  1. Keep your Social Security Number private. Social Security Numbers are a key piece of information for identity thieves. Arrange for masked social security numbers where possible, e.g. on insurance cards.
  2. Monitor your credit report. Watch credit reports from at least one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Visit annualcreditreport.com to request a free copy of your credit report.
  3. Don’t fall for phishing scams. Phishing is the process by which fraudsters use the internet to try to obtain confidential personal or financial information. Often, phishing comes in the form of an email that appears to be from a legitimate source, like the IRS, but is not. Be aware that the IRS  never emails taxpayers.  If you receive a phishing email, do not click on links or open attachments. Forward directly to your trusted advisor.
  4. Don’t give out unnecessary data. Resist giving businesses private information, like your Social Security Number, just because they ask for it.  Often it is not actually required.
  5. Invest in a shredder. Use it to destroy sensitive documents before discarding them.
  6. Lock up your documents. Keep personal documents secure at home in a locked file cabinet or safe. You can also lock personal information stored on your computer by password protecting sensitive files and folders.
  7. Protect your computers. Use firewalls, and anti-spam or anti-virus software on your personal computers; make sure to update your software regularly with the latest virus definitions and security updates.
  8. Follow password best-practices. Change your passwords regularly, especially on online banking sites. Choose passwords that are not too obvious or easy to guess – don’t use “password” or strings of characters like “1234abcd.”

Ohio Identity Theft Help

Following the above tips will help you reduce your risk for identity theft.  If you have questions about any of the above tips or are concerned that you may be a victim of identity theft, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio auditors and certified fraud examiners will help you to protect your identity and secure your personal information.

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