Identity theft seems to be always in the news and people want to make sure they are mitigating the risk.
Just this last week, a student at the University of Utah discovered he was the target of identity theft. The thief applied and was approved for multiple accounts in the victim’s name and was making purchases. The individual even updated bank information using a new email address he created, unbeknownst to the victim.
What can we learn from this?
- Shred anything with personal information.
- Check your credit report for suspicious activity.
- If you feel you have become a victim, place an immediate freeze on your credit. This prohibits someone from applying for a loan or credit card in your name until you remove the freeze.
Another place identity thieves love is the junk yard. They search through the wrecked and totaled vehicles that potentially contain mountains of papers that can be used to steal your identity.
KSL News recently investigated and found a lot of information that had unknowingly been left in vehicles: bank information, medical records, checkbooks, and tax information,1 all of which contained the perfect recipe for identity thieves: names, address, Social Security, and bank account numbers.
What can we do to make sure our vehicle isn’t a potential jackpot for identify thieves?
- Clean out your vehicle regularly.
- Don’t store sensitive documents in your vehicle.
- Double check all locations, i.e. console, glove box, trunk, and underneath seat, before selling or letting your vehicle be towed after an accident.
An additional item that must not be overlooked is your online presence. It seems like every website requires a login. Some ask for a user ID. Others want your email address. The password requirements differ: letters, numbers, special characters, or all three.
The best passwords are longer than 8 characters; include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters; and are changed every 3 months.
How can you keep track of and secure your passwords?
- Memorize them.
- Write them down and keep the list secure.
- Use a phrase you can remember that is hard to guess. Add variations at the beginning or end.
- Have your Internet browser remember them.
- Use installed software that remembers them.
Do not make your passwords the same. If one of your logins is compromised, the hacker will try it on your other logins. Another tip: do not write them on a sticky note next to your computer.
We have had many clients ask us about purchasing an identity theft protection product like LifeLock, IDShield, or LegalShield. You can do many things they do for free to protect your identity, such as monitoring your bank accounts, credit card statements, and your credit reports. However, this can be time-consuming.
For a monthly fee, these services monitor your personal information and send you alerts if any suspicious or fraudulent activity ensues. Each of these differs in price and the services they provide.
If this is something you would like, do your homework and research them to find one that offers the right balance of features for the price you are willing to pay.
Identity thieves work around the clock. Unfortunately, they’ve made it their job. Follow these steps to make it harder and don’t make yourself an easy target.
1. Mike Headrick and Tania Mashburn, “Piles of Personal Data Discovered in Salvage Yards,” KSL.com, November 9, 2015.