With the recent data breach at Equifax, we are reminded how important it is to always take extra care of our sensitive information.
It doesn't appear that we can do a whole lot about the Equifax disaster, but as consumers, we can protect ourselves from possible identity thieves. According to a US News Report, there are several ways the bad guys access our information:
- A stolen purse, wallet or credit card
- Phone or email scams
- Documents or receipt retrieved in trash
- Hacking unsecured computers or wireless networks
Once a thief has your information it is relatively easy for them to open up bank accounts, credit cards, take out loans, and even filing a tax return in your name.
As fraudsters continue to become more sophisticated, it makes sense for consumers to work extra hard to protect themselves from fraud. Thieves are becoming more adept at using data from a breach and can take over a consumers financial account completely. According to a CNN Money article, a Javelin Research report showed an identity fraud incident occurring every 2 seconds totaling $18 billion, down from $21 billion in 2012.
Some proactive steps consumers can take are:
- Shred sensitive and confidential information-Thieves look for opportunities and routinely look in dumpsters and trash cans for information, so it is vital to shred all documents with sensitive data.
- Financial Documents-Keep a close eye on all financial and insurance documents and then handle with great care.
- Limit your personal information on social networking sites from Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Create strong passwords when using the internet and lock all electronic devices when not being used.
- Be very careful when using unsecured wifi.
- Monitor your credit-It makes good business sense to monitor your credit report and search for unusual activity on a regular basis.
If you think you may be subject to an identity theft, it is crucial to contact law enforcement, your financial institutions, and change your passwords.