11/19/2013: 6 Ways To Safeguard Your Identity

Identity theft is rampant. It is likely that you know someone who has become a victim. According to a 2013 report by Javelin Research, incidents of identity theft increased by 1 million over the past year. Help protect yourself with identity protection services from Bank of Oak Ridge and by following these recommended practices:

  1. Purchase a shredder and use it religiously. The cost of a shredder is minimal compared to the consequences of identity theft. Shred credit card applications that arrive in the mail, especially the pre-approved applications, for which you don’t intend to apply. Also shred all banking/credit card statements and other documents containing personal data for which you have no use. When credit or debit cards expire, shred them as soon as you’ve activated the replacement.
  2. Don’t provide your birthdate, county and state of birth, or your parents’ or grandparents’ full names on social media sites such as Facebook. You’re sharing information with potential identity thieves who can use that information to answer questions such as, “What is your father’s middle name,” or “What is your mother’s maiden name.” With the popularity of sharing genealogy on the web, it is very inexpensive to locate familial and personal information that may seem innocuous to you but leads to ill-gotten gain for an identity thief.
  3. Make sure you are working behind a password secured internet firewall at home when banking or shopping online. If you don’t know whether your internet connection is secure, chances are it isn’t. It is highly recommended that you contact a networking professional in your area to secure it for you. Avoid online banking or shopping using free wi-fi made available at an internet café, hotel, or other public place. Free wi-fi isn’t secure and your information is available to prying eyes.
  4. Use strong passwords for email, online banking sites, and other sites wherein you input or extract sensitive (financial) data. Strong passwords mean no names or words that you would find in an unabridged dictionary since these take only a few minutes to crack with hacking software. Strong passwords are at least 9 characters in length, include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and where allowed, special characters such as & and $. When entering personal information on a website such as credit card credentials, be sure the web address (URL) in the browser window begins with “https” and you can view the Secure Certificate by clicking on the padlock provided there as well.
  5. Install anti-virus software on your home computer and keep it updated. Renew it each year. This will help weed-out phishing and spammy email that could appear to come from friends, your bank, the IRS, and others. It won’t keep out all of the bad emails so you still need to be cautious of emails you receive with attachments you weren’t expecting. Great anti-virus software will also warn you of web pages that contain scripts that can harm your computer or grab your personal information.
  6. Get a free credit report each year from the top financial services, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Review the reports to determine if any accounts have been opened in your name of which you are unaware. The Federal Trade Commission has published a document online to help you take charge of situations involving identity theft.

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