A friend and colleague, Tim Watters, posted an article on his website about the very serious issue of identity theft, and what to do to protect yourself. I am reposting with his permission.
Over the past year, I have had a number of clients have identity theft incidents. Clients have had collection agencies contact them about outstanding balances on cards they never took out or cash withdrawn from their bank accounts. A few even had their tax files and refunds taken from them.
This is a time for all of us to be more proactive in protecting ourselves. Here are a few important safeguards I recommend.
1. Get your free credit report every year from the 3 major ratings agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). We can request this for you. Contact my office if you would like us to do so.
2. Update your email password and avoid AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail. According to the FBI, 70% of the e-mail hacking incidents have happened to people who had AOL e-mail accounts.
3. On a Quarterly basis, change your passwords for all sensitive financial sites. It is far less work to change passwords every three months than to go through an identity theft incident.
4. Do not use the same password for all websites. Use a firewall and have up to date virus software on your computers.
5. Do not give out your credit card to anyone to use. Write "see ID" on back of your credit cards. This way they have to verify your identity in order to use the card.
6. Make sure your home wifi network uses a password. Update it periodically.
7. Backup your data daily. Consider using an external hard drive and/or offsite data storage.
Identity Theft is becoming a big issue and it requires all of us to be more careful and proactive. Hopefully, the recommendations I have suggested will help you avoid being a victim of Identity Theft.