Protect Your Private Information in Five Simple Steps

Realizing your identity has been stolen can leave you feeling violated, upset and angry. Unfortunately, you’re soon faced with a never-ending “to do” list of errands to clean up your credit and protect yourself from future attacks.

Cybercrime has become so pervasive that most experts believe that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” your identity will be stolen. There are several precautions you can take to protect your private information.

  • Only carry essential documents with you: Don’t carry any extra credit cards or personal identification materials like your social security card or birth certificate with you unless you will need to use them. Leave these important papers at home unless you absolutely need them.
  • Be careful when providing personal information over the phone: Identity thieves might call, sometimes posing as bank or government agency employees. They may even use a new technique called Caller ID Spoofing where the imposter falsifies the information transmitted to your Caller ID. A good rule of thumb is to not provide personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call.
  • Beware of dumpster divers: Shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks and other sensitive information before throwing it away.
  • Protect your social security number: Don’t give your social security number to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. Just because a form asks for your social security number, it doesn’t mean you need to provide it. Ask if there is another number you can use like a health insurance ID number.
  • Keep sensitive information out of emails: Unless you are able to encrypt the document, you should not email attachments such as financial statements and tax returns. When transmitting private information, use a cloud storage service or send it via mail or fax. Our clients use a secure portal to exchange sensitive documents with their advisor team.

Keeping your private information out of the wrong hands is the first step in protecting yourself against identity theft. The next blog post in this series will help you recognize the signs that might indicate that a crime has taken place and take the critical first steps toward rectifying the situation.