Monday, August 31, 2015

Identity Theft: Risks of Paying with Plastic

Every time you make a purchase you have an important decision to make: how will you pay for it?  Cash, credit, debit, or checks are the most common – although we are seeing that last one less as debit cards take over.  None of these methods are completely risk free, even carrying cash can put you at risk for classic theft, or just losing your wallet.  Chances are that convenience is what fuels your decision, and identity theft is not likely to cross your mind.  Often the winner is a credit or debit card, and you should understand how to protect yourself.

One of the most important things that you can do to protect yourself from ID theft is to closely monitor your account activity.  Most companies let you check your account activity online as often as you like, and you should take advantage of this.  Identify fraudulent charges as soon as possible, so you can cancel the card immediately, preventing any other charges.  Don’t just wait for your monthly statements.  If the theft were to start at the beginning of a billing cycle, by the time you receive your statements the thief may have spent a massive amount of money.  Even if you check your accounts online, you should still make sure that you are receiving your monthly statements.  Sometimes hijacking an account includes changing the address associated with the account in an attempt to prevent detection.

Other ways to protect yourself from ID theft include:
    • Don’t put outgoing payments in an accessible mailbox. These include personal information, and are easily taken.
    • Shred your receipts, statements, bills, and records before you throw them away.
    • Carry only as many credit cards as you need.
    • Pay with cash in restaurants. Waiters usually have to walk away with your card, and there have been many instances of dishonest employees using this opportunity to steal credit card information.
    • If you have a chip-enabled credit card, shop at retailers that use the chip-reader technology. This helps protect you if that retailer is compromised.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why You Should be Using an Online Password Manager

Do you use your pet's name or favorite sports team in any of your passwords?  How about your birthday or an easy to remember pattern?  Or maybe you have given up completely and just use the word “password?”  If you do, then I am sure that all of the hackers of the world would love to thank you for making their jobs that much easier!  With access to your online accounts so simple, they are able to track down all sorts of personal information.  How kind of you to make sure that their profession remains easy and lucrative.  What’s that?  You don’t want to be their victim and have your name on their mortgages and credit cards?  Well, what if they just open up new credit cards in your name and a ton?  No?  Well then, it is time that you learn a thing or two about password security and maybe look into an online password manager to help keep your information secure.

Forget using your kid’s name or your favorite color.  Secure passwords should not even be words.  They should be random and include numbers and special characters.  You think you are safe because you added a special character at the end of a word?  Yes, because I am sure that hackers have never considered that clever combination. Well done.

In reality, all of the obvious substitutions and combinations are well-known among hackers, so a secure password needs to be a random one.  If you are able to remember lots of different passwords, either you have an exceptional memory (so why were you using “123456” in the first place?) or your passwords are not secure.

So, what are you supposed to do if you can’t remember secure passwords?  Consider using online password management.  This stores your passwords for you and enters them automatically after you enter a master password.  This master password still needs to be secure, but you are far more likely to remember just one secure password than a different one for every site.  Your password manager online allows all of your other passwords to be completely random.  You would never be able to remember them, but they would not be worth the time that it would take a thief to crack them.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Identity Fraud Protection: Recognizing Everyday Risks

Everyone wants to take identity fraud protection seriously, but you may not realize that some of your everyday behaviors are putting you at risk.  Here are tips on identifying and avoiding these risks.

Don’t conduct business in your local coffee shop or other public place.  Free wi-fi can seem convenient and be tempting, but using it can put you at risk.  You don’t know who else is using that connection and they may be snooping on data that you are sending and receiving.  To protect from Identity fraud, never make purchases or log into online banking on a wi-fi connection that is not secure, and even logging into email or social media can be risky.

Choosing convenient passwords over secure ones puts you at risk.    If you spend any amount of time online, you are probably registered at so many different sites that passwords can start to seem like just a nuisance.  They are actually there for your protection, and yours should be long, random, and include letters, numbers, and symbols.  Protect from identity theft by avoiding obvious ones like birthdays, pet names, and the ever-popular “password.”  Use a different password for every site.  If you do not, it just takes one site being compromised for all your accounts to be compromised.  Consider single sign-on software to help keep your passwords secure.  This software creates and stores your passwords for you, so you only have to enter one master password and it plugs in the rest for you.  Because you don’t have to remember every password, they can all be different and complex, making them difficult to crack.

Don’t store your financial information in too many different places.  This goes for paper documents, as well as electronic information.  Some retailers allow you to store your payment information so you can make additional purchases with just one click.  Like using the same password over and over again, this can seem like the most convenient way, but it can put you at risk.  Leaving papers containing personal information laying around your house or not shredding documents that you throw away can also put you at risk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Identity Theft Protection is Important

identity theft protection thumbThe internet can be used for so many things, and has revolutionized how people communicate. From social media, to e-commerce, to mobile banking; the 21st century has brought with it so much change and progress. Unfortunately, part of that change has been the increase in identity theft. With over 13.1 million victims in 2013, this crime has become more profitable than ever. If you are searching for ways to protect from identity theft, search no more. Here are some of the best ways to help keep your identity safe.

Monitor You Credit

Monitoring your credit is a great way to uncover potentially fraudulent activity that could be occurring at your expense. If your identity is stolen, thieves could open lines of credit in your name without you knowing. By monitoring your credit files, you could identify theft and prevent further financial damage from happening. As an American, you are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Use these three reports throughout the year to monitor what is happening with your credit. For all of the times in between, you can get help with credit monitoring from Identity Guard. Learn more on their website

Purchase Identity Theft Protection Services

There are professional services available for consumers, such as Identity Guard® Identity theft protection. If you aren't tech savvy and are worried about cyber-crime, or if you just prefer the peace of mind that comes with experienced professionals, professional identity theft protection is for you. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Protect Yourself From Credit Fraud

Chances are that you or someone you know has had fraudulent charges on their credit or debit card at some point.  If the amount is small enough and you catch it quickly, it can be an easy fix. But when amounts get larger and the credit fraud becomes more involved, it can turn into a nightmare.

Protect your existing accounts.

Be careful where you use your credit and debit cards.  Thieves use devices called skimmers at ATMs and gas pumps to steal your card information.  These devices can also be handheld, so to prevent credit fraud, be watchful when you hand your card to a cashier and consider using cash at restaurants.  Wait staff usually has to walk away with your card, giving dishonest employees the opportunity to steal your card information. 

When you shop online, use only reputable websites and secure internet connections.  Fraudulent websites may advertise goods and services to trick you into entering your card information, or could have links that can download malware meant to harvest personal information from your computer.  Red flags to watch out for are deals that appear too good to be true, bad grammar, and the lack of a privacy or return policy.

Check your account activity often to prevent credit fraud.  Even if you are careful, creative thieves may still find ways to get your information and the sooner you discover the crime, the easier it will be to clean up the mess.  If you wait for your monthly statements, that will give the thief more time to spend your money than if you canceled the card right away.

Watch for other suspicious activity.

Criminals can also use your personal information to open new accounts in your name.  The best way to prevent this kind of fraud credit is to monitor your credit report.  You can get a free copy of your credit report every year, or you can use a credit monitoring service to monitor your credit on a more regular basis.  These services monitor your credit report and public records and alert you to new accounts or certain other changes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is Identity Theft Protection Necessary?

identity theft protectionSome people think they are too young for criminals to want their identity. Others think that being "off the grid" means that they are not susceptible to identity theft. Still, others think that it just won't happen to them, so they don't even bother to take efforts to protect themselves from identity theft. All of these thoughts are not necessarily true. Identity thieves are very interested in newer identities because they have untarnished credit, and clean criminal records. Personal information is still available online if you're off the grid. For example, if you've ever made purchase from a store that has an online customer database, your personal information could be stolen. And identity theft could happen to anyone. This drives the need for identity theft protection in America.

Is ID Theft Protection Free?

There are many methods that you can practice regularly to help prevent identity theft. Here are a few:
  • Don't use public WiFi networks for mobile banking or online shopping. These unsecure networks could expose your financial information to anyone who knows how to alter the network to work for them.
  • Be aware of credit card skimmers. These small, subtle, almost un-noticeable devices can be placed over credit card slots, and are used to magnetically steal your credit card information. This could potentially wreak havoc on your personal finances.
  • Don't carry personal ID documents around with you on a regular basis. Carrying a Social Security card with you everyday can increase the chance that it could be stolen, and used to illegally leverage your personal reputation and finances.
These are free practices that can be used to help decrease your chances of being a victim of identity theft. However, there are professional identity theft protection services out there.

Professional Services

Reputable identity protection services can help you to protect what matters most to you. For example, identity guard identity theft protection uses credit, identity, and public record monitoring with prompt alerts to help you stay on top of identity theft (visit them at There are several other large companies that each use their own methods of keeping you safe. If you feel that you would like more protection help, or do not have the technical know-how to keep your information safe online, don't hesitate to utilize these professional services.