Managing Your Money

Identity Theft...What you Need to Know to Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves

Thumbnail image for FPAIdentityTheft.jpgIt seems as though there is not a day that goes by without a story about Identity Theft. Target, Nordstrom...the list seems to grow each day. What can you do to protect yourself?

What is Identity Theft?

ID theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information - such as your Social Security Number, credit card or account numbers, and passwords - to access your bank accounts or open credit card accounts in your name. This could impact your credit rating which might prevent you from obtaining loans for a car or house, renting an apartment and even applying for a job. Not to mention the frustration of lost time and money in trying to fix the problem.

What can you do to prevent ID theft?

Exercise Common Sense

• Make a list of all of your credit cards and bank accounts including the account numbers, contact information and expiration date.
• Shred any solicitations for credit cards, bank statements, credit card invoices, anything which might provide personal information to a thief.
• Empty your mailbox daily and be sure to notify the post office if you will be away.

Create secret “verbal passwords” on your bank accounts

• Ask your bank to set up a “verbal password” on all over the counter transactions, phone request withdrawals, newly issued bank cards and even transfers. Your local branch manager can set the password up for you. Be sure to write the password down when speaking to the teller.

Consider opening an account with one of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)

• For a monthly fee, only you have the power to lock or unlock your credit file. Once you lock your credit file, no one can open a new credit card account – not even you. You need to unlock your file if you apply for a loan. This service will also alert you if there is any suspicious activity in your accounts.

Don’t open a credit card at the store.

• Everyone loves a bargain but there is no assurance of security for your personal information once you leave the store.

Educate yourself

• There are many resources available for consumers to educate themselves on ID theft including:

o Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
o Federal Trade Commission

You cannot be too careful in protecting your personal information. The scammers are always one step ahead of the security measures. Don’t assume your information is protected. Ben Franklin’s saying comes to mind: “An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure”.

John F. McAvoy, CFP ® is a member of the MA Financial Planning Association.
Securities offered through Investors Capital Corp. Member FINRA/SIPC

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