At least 110 million consumers were affected by the hack involving Target and Neiman Marcus retailers. Whether or not millions more will have their identities manipulated and finances ruined within the coming months due to more breaches of security is anyone’s guess. Before you become a victim of identity theft, here are some suggestions to protect yourself.
Understand how and where it happens. Identity theft is like being robbed when you are away from home; most thefts occur in places where you do business every day. Either a place of business is robbed, a bad employee acts improperly or a hacker breaches the office through the computer.
Secure your wallet’s information. Photocopy everything in your wallet: photos, credit cards (front and back), membership cards–everything. Put the copies in the order the cards are arranged in your wallet, staple the pictures and place them in a strong box or safe.
Make sure your information is consistent. For all of your identity and financial documents, make absolutely sure that all of your personal information is accurate and consistent. Discrepancies such as using your middle initial on some documents, and not others, or having different addresses, can wreck havoc in proving your identity, and can compromise your credit score.
Secure your digital habits and data. Change your passwords at least twice a year on a non-scheduled basis–don’t be predictable. Only access sites that are protected by a strong firewall and high industry standards. Access accounts of a financial nature only from your personal computer.
Protect your banking information. While in the bank, keep account numbers and other data out of sight, and avoid stating account numbers, Social Security numbers and similar information out loud.
Don’t carry around your birth certificate or Social Security card. Unless it’s necessary, keep those vital items in a safe, or at least a firebox. If you know someone is going to need a copy of your tax returns or your driver’s license, make the copies ahead of time. This avoids the need for a firm’s employee to leave the room with such information.
You can greatly reduce being a victim of such recent hacks that occurred at the major retailers by using cash more often. But if you’re going to use a credit card, use a card from a national bank or credit union and never a debit card.
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