Identity Theft: Don’t Become a Victim
In 2016, an estimated 15.4 million people fell victim to Identity theft in the US. ¹
Someone stealing your identity can be catastrophic to your life and your money.
But, Fear not! – Just as there are ways to protect yourself from market risks; there are ways you can protect your identity.
Protecting Yourself Offline
Most people believe the myth that paper is more secure than the internet. News outlets discussing cyber-attacks doesn’t help bust this myth. In actuality, 82% of Identity theft comes from offline sources.
Luckily, there are several ways to protect yourself offline - And they are easy to put in place!
Here are some ways you can protect your information OFFLINE:
1) Sign up for paperless statements:
Most Banks, brokerages, insurance, and utility companies let you get paperless statements. Paperless statements prevent your mail from ending up in the wrong hands.
Instead of your statement coming in the mail, you log in to your secure online account to get your statements.
2) Invest in a shredder:
A paper shredder can be your biggest ally in protecting your information. Shred ALL mail that you don't need to keep if it contains sensitive information.
Shred used credit cards, voided checks, old tax or account documents. Any paper document that you do not need keep - SHRED!
3) Lock important and sensitive documents in a fireproof safe:
Invest in a fireproof safe. Keep your most important documents in there (you can also keep valuable possessions in it). Here are some documents that you should put in a fireproof safe:
● Birth Certificate
● Marriage Certificate
● Social Security Cards
Having these documents in a fireproof safe not only helps protect you from Identity theft, but it also helps protect you from fire or other emergencies. These documents can help put your life back together after an emergency.
So, a small safe is a relatively inexpensive investment.
4) Lock other important documents in a lockable file cabinet or storage container
Identity theft often comes from people you know (I.e., Other people in a dorm room, guests that wander at a party, roommates, and even friends or family).
Lock documents such as:
Lock them in a lockable file cabinet or storage container.
A lockable cabinet is not likely to stop a truly motivated thief but can deter many common instances of ID theft.
Protecting Yourself Online
1) Automatic Updates for your Windows or MacOS
You may have seen the massive worldwide data-breaches that have happened.
Many people/companies all over the world get hit with a “Ransom-Ware” virus.
People often don't realize that many breaches are due to not updating your software. Microsoft/Apple release software updates to combat malware. You can have automatic updates for your operating system and other software.
Using automatic updates help you be up-to-date on security prevention.
How to Windows 10:
How to MacOS:
2) Secure Passwords
Ensure that your password protects your computers, cell phones, WIFI, and accounts. The more secure the passwords – the better!
Passwords for your accounts and electronics are a great thing. However, if not done right, it can make it easy for a hacker to access your information. Check out this video on creating secure passwords.
It is also critical to have different passwords for EVERYTHING. If a hacker happens to guess or figure out one of your passwords, you don’t want them having access to your whole life.
If you are anything like me, it may be hard to remember 100 different passwords. That’s where secure password managers can help you!
Secure password managers allow you to store your passwords in one central location. So, you only have to remember one. Pretty cool, right?
Check out this list of different password managers:
3) Two-factor authentication
Even if you have unique, complex passwords for your accounts, it may not be as strong enough. Many brokerage companies, banks, and social platforms (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) offer "two-factor authentication."
What is two-factor authentication?
Two-factor identification is when you type in your password to a site. Then the site sends you a separate code to your phone or a designated key-fab to confirm your identity. This code acts as an added layer of protection.
Ask your broker or bank if they provide two-factor authentication.
4) Antivirus Protection
Most computers come with antivirus software when you buy the computer. It is critical to make sure you have Antivirus software, and that it is installed correctly.
Don't have Antivirus software?
There are many resources online to help you. Check out this review of popular antivirus software:
If you want more protection than an anti-virus provides, you can also get advanced intrusion detection.
Traditional antivirus protection stores a database of viruses/ malware. But, hackers can adjust the malware to be different than what's in the database. If they do, the antivirus software will not detect it.
5) Be cautious of public WIFI
Do you ever get on public WIFI at a Starbucks, Airports, Library…etc.? If so, you are opening yourself up to attack. Virtual Private Networks, also known as VPN’s, can protect you outside the security of your home WIFI.
As stated by PCmag.com, “Simply put, a VPN creates a virtual encrypted "tunnel" between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service.”
This VPN hides you and your information from hackers while on a public WIFI.
There are free VPN’s such as https://www.hotspotshield.com/. There are many other free / paid services depending on your need.
See more, popular options here: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp
6) Be aware of phishing schemes
A phishing scheme is when a hacker poses as someone you trust to try to steal money or information from you.
There are many well know and infamous phishing schemes.
There is a recent phishing scheme where an automated phone number calls you. It tells you that the IRS is auditing you. AND there will soon be a warrant for your arrest if you don’t respond with your information.
You may have received one of these calls yourself. No one wants the IRS after them. The immediate instinct for most people is to give the information. I don’t want to end up behind bars!
Make sure you verify the authenticity of phone calls or emails that you believe to be suspicious.
DO NOT provide information over the phone or click a link in an email that looks suspicious. It isn’t hard for a hacker to create an email that looks the same as a brokerage company or bank.
Don’t give out your information unless you are 100% certain you are providing it to the proper people.
7) Shop at safe sites
An easy way for hackers to get your credit card information is when you buy items online, but there are easy ways to prevent this from happening.
Shop at sites you know and trust. If you are not familiar with the online business, the web address can help show you if it’s secure. The web URL will start with “http:” or “https:.”
If it is “https:,” it indicates a secure site as the “s” indicates an extra encrypted layer.
Another step you can take is never to use a debit card online. Credit card companies generally have fraud prevention measures in place. They can quickly make you whole again if fraud occurs. If a thief gets your debit card and empties your bank account, it can often be much harder to get your money back.
8) Watch what information you share
Watching the information, you share is two-fold:
Watch what you intentionally share and what you unintentionally share.
We live in a world dominated by social media. The president tweets daily. People share “stories” of their daily lives on Instagram and Snapchat. People post their every thought, political belief or videos of their pets on Facebook. What can be wrong about this? Well, it can give a hacker information.
As an example, people commonly use their pet’s names in a password. A hacker may know your pet’s name because you posted a video with it.
That knowledge makes hacking you MUCH easier.
If you post pictures of your vacation while you are on vacation, it signals that no one is home. This knowledge is valuable information to a would-be burglar.
These are a couple of ways the information you volunteer online can get against you.
You may also be sharing information that you are not aware you are sharing. Many companies and websites track your activity online. They use “cookies” and other methods of watching your data while you browse.
Tech Radar has a great example of why this is scary for your privacy:
“for example, you visit a life insurance website for a quote and they are able to detect that you recently bought a book about heart disease on Amazon.“
You can prevent companies tracking you by using a plug-in software such as Ghostery. Ghostery blocks monitoring software such as “cookies.”
If you are using a browser such google chrome, you can also use “private browsing” or “incognito browsing.” If someone accesses your computer, it will keep your browsing and data private.
If you are REALLY paranoid about internet security, you can use a browser designed for anonymity and security called Tor. Tor is a browser that is an electronic version of an onion. It develops many “layers” that prevent unwanted eyes accessing your information.
9) Pay attention
Paying attention is the most important step. All the other steps are obsolete without this. It is also the simplest action to put in place. Pay Attention.
● Check your credit card and bank statement to look for fraudulent charges
● Check your credit score through free credit checking services (every quarter)
● Watch your kids browsing or set parental controls
● Don’t give information out if you have a bad gut feeling
● Watch what paper you throw out
● Know who you are giving information too and ensure it’s a trusted source
One last measure that you can take is hiring a service to help you with these steps. Despite your best efforts, your identity may still get compromised. Many of the services listed can help lock down your credit, and protect your Identity.
As a financial advisor, I may not be a technology expert. But, I am familiar with steps you can take to protect your identity. I can serve as an ally and a resource to help you.
If you would like to sit down with me to discuss the risks to your financial health, please click this link to my calendar.
You can also feel free to reach out to us at Inquiries@OdysseyWealthDesign.com or call us directly at 949-474-6872.
1. “Identity Theft Hit An All-Time High in 2016” USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2017/02/06/identity-theft-hit-all-time-high-2016/97398548/ Accessed April 19, 2018
2. “Yikes! Identity Theft and Fraud Online” 5 Minute Money Tips. http://5minutemoneytips.com/2013/08/09/identity-theft-and-fraud-online/ Accessed April 19, 2018.
Copyright 2018 Odyssey Wealth Design. Odyssey Wealth Design provides financial planning and wealth management to clients in Orange County, Irvine, Newport Beach, and around the country.