It can be tempting to consider your whole life as a series of numbers. Your phone number, your address, your social security number, your credit card number, the list goes on. Almost every aspect of our daily lives is attached to a string of numbers which we have to communicate on a regular basis. This brings on a sense of existential anxiety when we realize that the methods we use to communicate those numbers are less than secure more often than not. What’s worse, with the modern era of electronic information gathering, someone doesn’t really need to capture all of your information to put your financial well being at risk. Someone with your name and address can probably then get ahold of your credit card number, then they can access your social security number, then they can begin to open new lines of credit and you’re suddenly getting unpleasant surprises in the mail.
Identity theft is the common plight of our new age, and it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. You may not have the experience of having your full credit identity compromised, but even having a single account accessed in your name can be costly and frustrating. There are, however, a few ways to ensure you are protected.
Check your credit reports
One of the most important steps to take is to periodically check your credit report with the main credit bureaus. They are required to offer you a free copy of your credit report once every year, and you can request it at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are other sites that will advertise free access to your credit report, but this site is set up by the credit bureaus in compliance with federal guidelines. You can also register for credit monitoring services to be alerted when new applications are made with your identity or if new debts are reported.
Keep secure passwords
Any system you log into online should require secure password, especially if that system has access to any financial information. This is not just restricted to bank accounts, but also accounts that may have saved credit cards. A national pizza chain website, for instance, might be vulnerable to be compromised, allowing someone to place orders on your account, with you footing the bill. You should not use the same password for multiple websites, and your passwords should have a minimum level of “complexity.” That is a mix of upper and lower case letters and special symbols where allowed.
Be cautious when answering questions
From time to time, you may have legitimate contact regarding a financial issue. A debt collector, bank representative, or your business accountant may call regarding an important issue. In these cases, especially when you weren’t expecting that contact, be particularly cautious. Different companies will have different policies on what information they will or will not request over the phone. For instance, passwords for online accounts should never be requested over the phone, especially in an instance where they have called you. If you are ever in doubt, advise the caller that you will disconnect the call and call them back at a publicly verified contact number for that institution. Contact by mail is generally safer, but could still be susceptible to risks. Ensure that the return address you are provided matches one that can be verified for the company in question. If you aren’t certain, call the company at a listed customer service number or visit your local branch.
These are just some of the basic habits you want to build when it comes to protecting your identity. When it comes to managing your taxes, play it safe and work with a reputable tax preparer like Baker Business and Tax Solutions. Contact us today!