As an elder law attorney, I am passionate about preventing elder abuse and financial exploitation. Not only is identity theft a risk that threatens elder individuals – it threatens every single one of us. It is important to keep your identity secure. However, even the most careful individuals find themselves dealing with consequences of identity theft. Following these tips can help to protect your identity and keep you from falling victim to a financial crime:
- Cross-shred statements and papers with personal information that you do not intend to keep. This includes destroying bank statements, credit card applications, health statements, bills and insurance forms.
- Cut up expired credit cards and debit cards. Be sure to cut through the numbers on the card.
- Protect your social security number, account numbers, and password. Be sure not to carry these numbers with you, or write them down where they can be found easily or even easily interpreted. Only share your social security number when it is absolutely necessary. It is also prudent to verify the organization before you give them your social security number.
- Secure you personal documents. Be sure to keep your personal documents in a safe place where they cannot be found by roommates, house guests or hired help in the home.
- Minimize the personal information you print on checks. Do not include your social security number, phone number, or driver’s license number on written checks.
- Monitor your financial statements for unauthorized transactions. Be sure to check you bank and credit card statements for transactions that you do not recognize or did not authorize.
- Pay attention to billing cycles. If you are not receiving bills on time, follow up with the biller.
- Never respond to requests to “verify information.” Your bank, credit card company, online payment system and/or the IRS should never call you to ask for confidential information – they already have what they need.
- If you conduct business online, use your own computer. Using public computers, or unsecure wifi connections, puts your personal information at risk.
- Never use email or text messaging to share personal information. This includes, but is not limited to, usernames, passwords, social security numbers, and credit card/bank account numbers.
- Create complex passwords. Be sure to create a strong password – this means using upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
- Do not use mobile devices to store personal information. Do not store personal information in your phone where it can be accessed and used, should your phone be lost or stolen. Even password protected phones can be opened.
- Back up computer data on an external hard drive and store it, securely, away from your computer. You should also be sure to keep you security settings and programs up to date.
- Be mindful about what you post online. Once you share something online, assume it is available to anyone and everyone…reflect on this prior to posting things that may be private or personal.
- Check your credit report. It is prudent to check your credit report at least once a year. You can do this through AnnualCreditReport.com.
By following these helpful tips, you will be more protected from identity theft. If you do believe your identity may have been stolen or compromised, immediately call you credit providers. After you have done that, notify each of the three credit bureaus and request a “Fraud Alert” to be placed on your file. If certain accounts have been tampered with, close these accounts immediately as well.
Having your identity stolen is not something to be embarrassed about – it does not mean you did anything wrong or were not smart about decisions, whether they be financial or personal. Identity theft is a crime and can happen to anyone – even the most careful person. If you have questions about identity theft or financial exploitation, contact Schromen Law, LLC today.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.