Identity Theft Around the Holidays

Around the holidays we do a lot of shopping whether it be online or in store. We are putting our identity out there when we swipe our credit cards or type them in to a payment box and it gives hackers the chance to steal your identity. We’ve all heard the horror stories about how difficult it is recovering from having your name, Social Security number or credit card numbers stolen. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help minimize the risk of identity theft.

Mail

Check your home mailbox daily, and drop your outgoing mail into a secure postal mailbox only. Also, pay attention to your billing cycles; identity thieves may change your billing address, so a late bill may indicate a problem.

Personal Items

Carry only what you need and keep a list of those items on paper. In the event identity theft, you’ll know who should be notified and the phone numbers to call to cancel the accounts. If your wallet is lost or stolen, follow these tips:

  • Call your credit card company immediately and have that particular card canceled.
  • File a police report in the jurisdiction in which your property was stolen. This will help provide proof of immediate action to your credit card providers.
  • Call the three national credit reporting organizations as well as the Social Security Administration so that a fraud alert can be placed on your name and Social Security number. By doing so, any company that checks your credit will know to contact you by phone before approving any credit transactions. Try calling the following numbers:
    • Equifax—888-766-0008
    • Experian—888-397-3742
    • TransUnion—800-680-7289
    • Social Security Administration—800-772-1213

Personal Information

Give out information on a “need to know” basis only. Omit your Social Security number and driver’s license number on your bank checks. If required to use your Social Security number as an account number, request an alternate identifier. Finally, invest in a shredder for destroying documents that contain personal information.

Computer and Credit History

Since we do a lot of shopping online it is important to update your virus protection software or use a firewall program. Before you dispose of your old computer, delete personal information by using a “wipe” utility program to “clean” all the information off your hard drive. Lastly, it can take months to learn that someone has applied for credit in your name. To stay up-to-date on your credit history, review your credit record at least once a year.

Ways to Keep Your Identity Safe

Stories of the struggle of those falling victim to identity theft dot the news headlines regularly. In addition to
taking sensible precautions, what can you do to protect yourself? Consider identity theft insurance.

What is Identity Theft Insurance?

Identity theft insurance can be purchased as a stand-alone policy or added as endorsement to your existing homeowners or automobile insurance coverage.
Though identity theft insurance does not protect against the cost of the actual theft, it is a relatively inexpensive insurance option that reimburses for the cost
of reclaiming your identity. This includes the following:

  • Phone call charges, photocopying costs and postage fees
  • Salary loss due to uncompensated time off from work
  • Legal fees

Additionally, you’ll gain access to a fraud specialist who can assist you in restoring your good name and protecting your identity. This service accompanies reimbursement for expenses associated with credit restoration, as noted above.

Identity Protection Suggestions:

  • Carry only the necessary amount of personal information in your purse or wallet.
  • Shield yourself when using an ATM or making a credit card purchase.
  • Do not throw credit card or ATM receipts away in public trash receptacles.
  • Monitor your accounts regularly by checking statements to make sure that all documented transactions are justified. If you suspect a problem, contact the company or bank immediately.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from all of the three major credit bureaus. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each. This document outlines where you live, accounts opened in your name, how you pay your bills and more. Inspect these documents closely to uncover any indiscretions or activities that you did not authorize.
  • Create passwords that do not use easily obtainable information on your accounts and credit cards.
  • Never give out your personal information to parties you do not know.
  • Make sure you are giving your information over encrypted websites only. If the information is not required don’t give it.
  • Look for secure websites before giving your information. They will have a lock symbol in the search bar and a “s” after “http” which denotes the site is secure.
  • Websites that offer multi-factor authentication provide an extra layer of protection for it’s users. This means instead of just inputting  your username and password they will normally call, text, or email you in addition to prove you are who you say you are.
  • Always verify the sender of an email before you click on link or attachments.

Contact us at (850) 770-7047 to learn more about identity theft insurance and how we can help you protect your good name.