Financially Fit in 5

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Astonishing…Utterly astonishing….That’s the word I would use for the number of attempts to hack into my business website. And, I’m not quite sure why. The LC Group web page is informational only. Since we sell daily money management and personal bookkeeping services and don’t have a checkout cart, I’m not sure I understand the point of hacking into my website other than to cause me great grief.

I can only imagine the number of attempts that occur on a millisecond basis for banks and retail establishments. Every day there’s headlines of security breaches, identities stolen, and bank accounts wiped out.  It’s not just credit card information. I’ve had clients that have had pay-day loans opened in their name and false IRS tax filings. We are moving from a cash society to a cashless society, and as we use the internet more and more, our personal financial information is out there in internet land.

What’s a person to do?

The first step would be to protect your identity as best you can. Here are some simple things you can do to help guard against identity theft.

When you purchase on-line, always check the internet address and look for the “s”. If the address starts with https: (rather than http) that means the site uses an encryption system. I also look for the padlocked l icon on the bottom right of the website; that also means that the website is using proper security measures for your financial transaction.

Open and review your bank and credit card statements to make sure that the transactions are legitimate. I keep my receipts and match them up to my statement. You would be surprised the number of times a transaction was altered.

Make sure to shred any financial paperwork or documents.

Be mindful of “Shoulder Surfers” at ATM machines or checkout counters. You would not want anyone to get close enough to you to see your pin number.

When asked for your Social Security number, be diligent in asking where and how that information will be stored and who will have access to that information. As an example, you may be asked to fill out an information sheet at your doctor’s office that asks for your SSN. Very often, just providing the last 4 digits of your number would be sufficient.

If you are a senior on Medicare, you SSN may be on your Medicare card. Keep watch over your card. Older Medicare documents had the full SSN listed on the top page of all claim forms. Again, be mindful and shred any of these older documents.

Use anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer and protect your computerized network with a firewall and password. Consider and be mindful of older family members who may not understand this technology.

Don’t share your log in and passwords with others. Create passwords that are strong and try and change your passwords regularly. A simple strategy for stronger passwords is to use symbols, such as parenthesis, plus and equal signs, and quotation marks (“+ =). Be very careful of how you store your passwords and try when possible to have a double entry system for password retrieval. Don’t use the same password for all your accounts.  You can use password management software such as LastPass, Dashland, Norton Identity Safe, and 1Password to store passwords.

Never respond to an email or phone call requesting your Social Security number, credit card number, or your bank account number. A legitimate company would never request this information by email or phone. Be especially on guard if the person calling you is impatient, angry sounding, and wants you to feel panicked – all common ways to put you off guard. In the event you receive a phone call requesting any information similar to this, tell them you will call them back. Look up the phone number yourself and call (or visit) your local branch to continue the conversation.

Along those same lines, be mindful where your credit card or driver’s license go when you are using them at a retail establishment. I was recently returning an item at a store, and the representative asked for my driver’s license (which apparently was part of their return policy). When she turned around and started walking away, I asked her where she was going with my license. Your driver’s license should never leave your line of sight.

Certainly you need to monitor your credit report to check for any fraudulent activity. I wrote about how to get your free credit report, to which you would have access several times a year (with no strings attached); here’s the link Keep in mind that thieves not only use your existing credit cards for fraudulent purchases, but they often open accounts in your name. You would be able to see each open account in your name on your credit report. In the event you are notified by a bank or retailer that your information has been stolen, they have to provide you free access to your credit report. You would want to monitor your credit report regularly under this type of notification.

The take away is that you have to create a safe environment for your personal financial identity and you need to be watchful.

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