Assuming you have access to some form of media, whether it be the television, radio, or internet, you generally will find some news regarding identity theft. I just learned today that eBay had a security breach and are asking all eBay members to change their passwords. TJX and Target are two recent cases of personal information being stolen (credit card #’s, addresses, etc.). Our firm had a couple of clients whose identity was stolen, and false tax returns which were created utilizing our clients information (social security #, etc.) – we didn’t find out about it until we received a reject on their electronically filed returns stating that a return under a social security number preciously filed and accepted could not be processed again.
You should be proactive in trying to prevent this from happening to you. There are many preventative measures you can take, all with the purpose of keeping your personal information secure. The easiest method would be to live on cash, never purchasing anything with credit nor purchasing anything online. I think though that would be an extreme measure. You can register all of your credit cards with a companies such as PrivacyGuard or LifeLock.
Technology has created a hotbed of information for people to steal. You should focus on your technology and take preventative measures to lower your risk. TransUnion, a company that produces credit scores, offers this list of how to protect yourself:
- Only carry essential documents with you
- Keep new checks out of the mail – pick them up at the bank
- Be careful when giving out personal information over the phone
- Your trash is their treasure – shred, shred, shred
- Make sure others are keeping you safe – does your employer keep your personal information locked up?
- Stay on top of your credit
- Protect your social security number
- Follow your credit card billing cycles closely
- Keep a list of account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers filed away.
- Create passwords or PIN numbers out of a random mix of letters and numbers.
Don’t open up emails that seem strange to you (phishing scams). Maybe only have one specific credit card to use for online purchases. When you dispose of a computer, wipe the hard drive clean. Have current anti-virus software and a firewall on your computer. Bottom line is to be careful.