You decide to buy a new car so you spend a lot of time shopping and bargaining. However, when you get the price you want, the whole deal falls through because the credit check fails. You wonder what happened – you’ve been making payments on time and keeping your credit balances to a minimum. It turns out that someone has taken out credit cards and loans in your name. Unfortunately, you’ve been a victim of identity theft! Surprisingly, this is a common occurrence affecting millions! However, there are simple measures you can take to help prevent identity theft.
With each passing day, more of our financial lives are linked to the Internet. Think about how many websites you use to pay your bills, check account balances, and buy goods. The amount of information stored on the web presents numerous opportunities for thieves to steal your account information. If your password is stolen, thieves could get access to your credit card or bank account information depending on the site’s security. Here are some simple steps you can take to secure your account:
1. Make your passwords strong even if the website does not require it (i.e., include Capital letters, special characters such as @,!,%, and numbers)
2. Make sure your password is not a common word such as password or admin
3. Set reminders to change your password every 6 months
4. Immediately change your password if a security breach has happened to a website you use
5. Never give out account information over e-mail especially if you did not initiate contact
Having a strong password is especially important. Many user accounts were hacked because the passwords were set to easy-to-guess words such as abc123 or abcdef. Malicious webbots constantly search the web for e-mail addresses and attempt to log on with common passwords.
Sometimes these bots launch sophisticated attacks by sending phishing e-mails designed to trick you into obtaining account information. If you check the headers of the e-mails, you will realize that the email is not from the organization that it claims to be from. Once I got an e-mail that looked like it was from a major bank to change my password. When I clicked on the show details link, the domain name of the e-mail was a different domain than the bank. In addition, the link they provided was not even from the bank’s website. Definitely a phishing scam! Moreover, no serious organization would send unsolicited requests to change your password.
Another often overlooked method to help prevent identity theft is to properly shred mail. The mail is full of offers to apply for credit cards and bank accounts. Criminals have been known to dig through trash to obtain these nuggets of information. Throwing away mail without shredding is an invitation for identity theft. Use a cross-cut shredder to shred your mail so that your personal information won’t be exposed.
Although we love to share our lives on Facebook, there is no reason to unknowingly share our financial information. Don’t become an victim of ID theft! Help yourself by setting strong passwords, not giving out account information over e-mails, and handling mail properly.