presented by Vision Financial
Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves. You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.
Check yourself out. Review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. You may get your credit report for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Secure your number. Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN.
Don’t leave home with it. Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place–at home.
When you toss it, shred it. Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder.
Keep a low profile. The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be victimized by identity theft. To help minimize your exposure:
- Stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry by registering at www.donotcall.gov
- Remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing lists by registering with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org
- Remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer reporting agencies, register online at www.optoutprescreen.com
Take a byte out of crime. Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password–one that’s six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Overwrite the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.
-S. Joey Elmore
Vision Financial Group, Inc.
4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, 35243
Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC. Vision Financial Group, Inc. is independent of ProEquities, Inc.