Few months back, I remember getting an email alert regarding a purchase on my wife’s credit card.
$500 at Albertsons?
I remember thinking, what’s my wife doing at Albertsons? I don’t think my wife even knows where the nearest Albertson is. And $500? What is she buying?
So I texted her.
- Hey hun! Heart. Heart.
- Just got an alert regarding a $500 purchase from Albertsons
- Just want to make sure this is valid?
- What’s an Albertsons?
- Oh no…
In today’s post, I want to talk about a topic that many, even the smartest individuals ignore too often.
Many Of Us Faily To Take Basic Steps
Many of us fail to take basic steps that could help prevent it.
Such as changing passwords frequently or checking our credit reports on a regular basis.
- A Google survey found that at least 65% of people reuse passwords across multiple, if not all, sites.
- Another study found that months after the Equifax breach in 2017, when 146 million Americans personal data were stolen, half of the respondents hadn’t even bothered to check their credit reports to see if their identities had been affected.
I know what you are thinking.
I know it’s important, but it’s such a hassle.
But taking care of your identity is something you can’t ignore. Especially as someone who’s trying to best manage your finances and where you have many people relying on you.
So in this post, let me go over 10 simple tips you can implement to best protect yourself from identity theft, so that your identity and most importantly, your money is well protected.
But first, let me go over some general overview of the world of identity theft.
The Dark Web
Have you ever heard of the dark web?
Dark websites are sites that people can access through special encrypted browsers. Criminals use them to commit all sorts of crimes. It works like a marketplace where shady individuals trade personal data – social security, credit card numbers, and passwords. And these are done undetected by law enforcement.
And most of these personal data aren’t even actively stolen. Many of us leave sensitive information lying around as easy targets – on notepads, on random websites, or sometimes on social media without us even realizing it.
We wouldn’t leave our front door open for any stranger to just barge in right? We make sure it’s locked before we leave the house. We should think the same with identity theft. Don’t make it easy for the criminals.
Scamming Methods Are Constantly Evolving
And even when we take basic measures, the criminals are constantly evolving to up their game. New technologies. New tools. New scripts.
And this is where the elderly, our aging parents are especially vulnerable.
I don’t know how many times my father or mother would come to me with a voicemail and tell me we needed to call back because the person who left the message sounded official and they urgently needed my parent’s personal information. I delete the message right away.
Also, they have a hard time distinguishing between real emails and scam emails. I mean, many of us who work on computers constantly have a hard time as well. So how can we expect our aging parents who just learned how to use an iPhone to know the difference?
We Are Simply Lazy
The bottom line is that we are simply lazy when it comes to protecting ourselves from identity theft. I mean technology that we have in our pockets and in our computers are just so amazing.
The convenience that today’s smartphones provide. Who could have imagined we could have the ability to take photos, while simultaneously checking our investment portfolio at the same time texting our friend.
We don’t want to deal with the hassle of protecting our identity when we are using these devices.
Who wants to fuss over passwords? Who wants to think if the free WIFI I just joined is secure or not? Who wants to think about whether the website I’m inputting my credit card information is using end to end encryption?
I just want to take the darn photo, buy that cool shoe from this random website I’ve never heard of and text my wife the Amazon Prime password, while connected to this too good to be true free WIFI at the airport.
However, the simple fact is we all know, we can’t.
So let’s get right to it.
10 Simple Tips To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
10 simple tips to prevent identity theft.
1 – Guard your personal information like your life depends on it. Always be skeptical when someone asks you for personal information. If a company representative asks you for your social security number to process a transaction, ask whether it is really necessary. Most often, no one’s really asked that question and the rep will need to check on his or her side as well. Your personal information is yours. Always be wary about sharing it.
2 – Make sure to warn your children and your aging parents. This is quite important as the Sandwich Generations. Children often give up a lot of information on the internet and criminals know it. Warn them about the dangers.
This probably isn’t good parenting – hey but this isn’t a parenting channel. But I tell my son to be extra careful when he is playing games online. If someone he doesn’t know is trying to chat with him, I tell him never to respond. And when he asks me why, I tell him – do you want to end up on the back of a milk carton?
Likewise, your aging parents are also easy targets. I have to constantly tell my parents not to take phone calls from unknown numbers and be extra careful when using social media platforms like facebook or youtube. Never to share personal information on any of these platforms.
3 – Ditch abcd and 1234 as your passwords. You need strong passwords that people can’t easily guess. And you want to change them every few months. I know it sucks, but it really helps.
4 – Use a secure password database. Don’t write your passwords on a napkin or on a post-it where anyone can see it. This isn’t a sponsored video, but I personally use 1Password to securely store all my passwords. It syncs across all my apple devices and it even generates random passwords so it helps out with tip number 3.
5 – Two-Factor your access whenever available. Almost all websites these days use two factor authorization to protect your accounts. You most likely have seen it. When you enter a password to access an account, it also sends you a text to your phone and has you input the number it sent you. It’s like having a double deadbolt on your front door. If the website you access regularly offers it, make sure to set it up.
6 – Use credit cards for all your transactions when allowed. I know Dave Ramsey won’t like this, but if you get scammed on your debit card, you might need to eat the cost. Most credit cards have really good fraud liability coverage. In the example I started out in the video, as soon as we identified that the $500 Albertsons transaction was a fraud and notified the credit card company, they immediately placed a freeze on the card and took care of the expense.
7 – Secure your WIFI connection. Whenever we are in a public space like the airport or mall, there are oftentimes FREE wifi offered. Be very cautious about jumping onto these networks. For one, they could be fake WIFI networks set up specifically to steal information. And even when they are official public WIFI networks, they are nowhere near secure. Use secure networks only. If you really need to check something online, most often the LTE on your phone is more secure than a public WIFI.
8 – Regularly check your credit report. Treat this ritual like your regular physical checkups. You can get this for free at annualcreditreport.com, the one and only official authorized credit report website. You can tell because the website looks like it was built in 1990 and never updated. But you can also get regular, unofficial reports from CreditKarma.com.
9 – Once you are using your credit cards for your transactions and have signed up with CreditKarma.com, set alerts. I’m pretty paranoid about this, so I set up my credit card alert to email or text me whenever there is a transaction on any of my cards. I do get a lot of alerts, but it also gives me a peace of mind to know that I’m in the loop with all transactions.
10 – Constantly be looking, listening and learning. Scammers are smart. They are constantly trying out new tactics to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals. And make sure you are keeping your kids and your parents in the loop as well.
The main takeaway here is to be cautious and extra protective when it comes to your personal information. These ten tips may seem cumbersome to implement, but compared to the time and pain you would be spending cleaning up the mess once you’ve been scammed, they pale in comparison.