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Golden 1 Offers 8 Tips to Increase Identity and Financial Protection | Business

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Golden 1 Offers 8 Tips to Increase Identity and Financial Protection
Golden 1 Offers 8 Tips to Increase Identity and Financial Protection

As consumers increasingly rely on mobile and online banking tools, it’s easy to fall prey to identity thieves seeking to steal financial information.

Approximately 17.6 million people averaged a loss of $1,343 to identity thieves in 2014, with 86 percent of instances involving a victim’s existing accounts rather than newly created ones.[1].

April is Financial Literacy Month, and part of being financially literate is ensuring your financial information is secure. There are several steps consumers can take to mitigate crime and ward off identity thieves, both on and offline.

1.     Keep your computer hardware and software up to date. Make sure your computer’s operating system has all the necessary antivirus updates and upgrades. This includes Wi-Fi and broadband connections.

2.     Be creative with your passwords. Believe it or not, “123456” and “password” were the most commonly used passwords for 2015[2]. Regularly alter passwords and login details, and use different passwords for different accounts. Include symbols, numbers and letters in varying sequences. Changing passwords every 90 days will further strengthen online security – especially if you access accounts using public computers.

3.     Pin “alerts” to your debit, credit or ATM cards. In the event that suspicious activity is detected on your accounts, a call or text is sent to your phone number alerting you of the transaction.   Additionally, you can create various alerts with online banking to receive an email or text for every credit card transaction, low balance in your account, a loan payment is due, etc.

4.     “Freeze” credit accounts. If you don’t foresee the need to open new lines of credit, you can freeze access to your credit report, which makes it difficult for others to open new accounts in your name. A freeze does not prevent you from using your existing credit, but it does prevent fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. Check with TransUnion, Equifax and Experian for specifics.

5.     Be cautious of your use of debit cards. Debit cards offer fewer legal protections than credit cards. If your debit card is compromised, the issuing institution may not immediately cover the loss. Check the policy with your card issuer.

6.     Shred, early and often. Shredding any paperwork you no longer need that contains personal identifiers such as your name, social security number, birthdate or address can strengthen your financial security. This includes old bank statements, prescription labels and tax documents older than seven years. Flash drives, SIM cards and other electronics with old data should be destroyed as well.

7.     Avoid answering “fun” questions on social media. Questions such as “what street did you live on in high school” or “what was your best friend’s first name” might seem innocuous from a longtime friend, but if you use these same metrics as answers to security questions on financial accounts you could be fair game for online hackers.

8.     Be smart with financial documents. Leaving a book of blank checks around the house is akin to leaving $50 bills in plain sight. While checks may be thought of as old-school, they can still be cashed. Lock checks in a safe or keep them out of sight.

Above all, exercise common sense. If an email or text pops up on your smart phone that you don’t recognize, stay away from it. Fraudsters rely on the unassuming to click through on what amounts to be phishing scams or other messages that closely mimic the real thing.

Incorporating these behaviors will go a long way toward ensuring personal and financial data security. And, you’ll sleep better at night.

Michael D. Lee is CPA, PFS, Financial Education Manager, Golden 1 Credit Union

[1] Bureau of Justice Statistics: 17.6 million US residents experienced Identity Theft in 2014

[2] SplashData; Announcing Our Worst Passwords of 2015



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