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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Protect yourself from identity theft

IDtheftBy now, you shouldn’t need to be reminded that your personal information is always at risk, by way of your smartphone, your computer, even your trash. As hard as you work to build up your credit, identity thieves are working even harder trying to steal your identity for monetary gain. Identity thieves will use any possible means to gain access to your personal information.

I have heard horror stories where thieves rummage through someone’s garbage or the trash of businesses to steal information. Identity thieves have a knack for contacting you by phone or email, pretending to work for legitimate companies in an attempt to get you to reveal important data. It could be as small as asking for your name and address just to build a profile on you.

Identity thieves will also hack into your personal computer and mobile devices as a way to steal your information. That’s right; your mobile device. Something as simple as setting your mobile device to pick up a Wi-Fi signal while you are sitting in a coffee shop can compromise all of your personal information. The open nature of public Wi-Fi allows anyone to snoop in on your device.

And once your personal information has been compromised, identity thieves can access your bank accounts and open credit cards using your name. If you have unexplained withdrawals from your bank account or unfamiliar charges on your credit card bill, or if you receive calls from debt collectors about bills that you aren’t familiar with, these are among the red flags that can mean someone has stolen your identity.

If your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen, contact the credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Check your bank statements and other financial account documents for unusual activity. Make sure you always secure your personal computer by keeping your security software up to date, and limit access to your wireless network with encryption and strong passwords.

And by all means, don’t click on any links or reply to emails or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels. And never, ever connect to a bank or other sensitive accounts over public Wi-Fi. In fact, pull out your smartphone right this minute and disable the Wi-Fi function, so it does not pick up a signal automatically.

Determined identity thieves are hard to stop, but if you follow these suggestions, you’ll improve your chances of keeping your personal information secure. And for extra security, here’s how GEICO can help protect your identity.



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