Written by: Kevin Bauer, CFP®, ChCF, CLU / President, BCJ Financial Group
April 28th named as National Secure Your ID Day – a day to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft and get your finances in order.
As a Javelin report notes, identity theft hit more than 16.7 million people in 2017. That is a record high and a sign that there has been a significant surge in the engagement of complex identity theft schemes.
Fraudulent schemes are taking on a whole new face, increasing their sophistication and networks. One large example was the Equifax data breach back in September of 2017. This complex breach rocked the headlines and sent Equifax consumers scurrying to protect themselves from the outcome. This bombshell exposed as many as 143 million Americans during the year 2017 – that is about 44% of the U.S. population.
The issue with the Equifax breach was that protecting valuable data about their consumers was a day late and a dollar short. When the breach was discovered, it was found that the cybercriminals responsible for this mayhem had been able to retrieve roughly 209,000 credit card numbers, in addition to millions of other Social Security and driver’s license numbers.
In order to bring awareness to this very serious situation and many others like it, the Better Business Bureau has named April 28th as “National Secure your ID Day” – a day to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft and get your finances in order.
What can you do to protect yourself?
One of the biggest things you can do is to safely dispose of documents that contain your personal information. Many of us retain paperwork ranging from bank statements to restaurant receipts. The question is “why?” Without the right knowledge or guidance, we may not know what we can get rid of and what we need to keep. In addition, if we need to retain a document, for how long?
To address this issue, I encourage everyone read “Which Financial Documents You Should Keep on File” as the first step to understanding what you keep and what can be safely disposed of.
S- Change your password regularly and make sure you aren’t using the same password for multiple accounts or websites. If you do, a breach on one site could give a hacker access to every other site where you use the same password. Moreover, use two-factor authentication when possible. Always remember, the longer and more complex the password, the harder it is to crack. Avoid names, places and dictionary words, and mix it up – use variations on capitalization, spelling numbers and punctuation.
H- Your Social Security number should be considered a top priority. As the core or your identity, it is critical to protect this information. The most important thing to remember is to avoid giving out your Social Security number or any other personal information, to someone you don’t know, who initiates contact with you by phone, email or in person.
R- Read your credit reports annually. Take advantage of one of many free credit reports out there which gives you access to your credit report free-of-charge once a year. If you notice any problems, act quickly and contact the credit bureaus to put a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account. In addition, make sure you sign up for credit alerts. This way you are aware if someone is trying to access your line of credit to apply for a loan or open a credit card.
E- Empty your purse or pockets and don’t carry any more than necessary. For example, never carry your Social Security card.
D- Don’t leave your information in the open. Don’t let someone you know steal your identity. Familiar fraud accounts for about 850,000 ID theft cases each year.2 As much as you might want to trust your family members, roommates, house cleaners and babysitters, leaving documents and mail lying around with your sensitive information is unwise.
As fraudulent schemes increase, the need to secure our identities increases as well. Don’t become a victim. For more information on free credit reports, visit the Federal Trade Commission consumer information page.
Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Service offered through BCJ Capital Management. World Equity Group, Inc. and BCJ Capital Management are independently owned and operated. Investment advisory services are offered through BCJ Capital Management, an SEC registered investment adviser. BCJ Capital Management is a (SEC) registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered specific investment advice, does not take into consideration your specific situation, and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed. Be sure to consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. BCJ FG 18-53