Protecting Your Financial Identity

business-identity-theft[1]In this age when social network is your identity and the world knows about your whereabouts, there is all the more reason to protect your financial identity. The following are know-hows to benefit from, as listed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities Industry Financial Markets.

How can a theft occur?
Thefts can occur in many different ways and it’s important to be familiar with these details in order to avoid a problem. For example, using keystroke-logging software to capture usernames and passwords and sending that information via emails, freeware or instant message applications is a common way for this type of theft to occur. “Phishing” for sensitive data by posing the email to come from a genuine address and asking for account number, password, credit card number or social security number is also very common.
Even though we live in a digital age, some identity/financial thefts occur by traditional methods such as “dumpster-diving” to recover discarded letters or records which were not shredded.

How to protect yourself?
To avoid identity and financial theft, it is important to not only know ways that theft can occur, but to identify and properly use security methods on a regular basis.

Secure your Passwords and PINs: You must have heard this multiple times but just to re-iterate, create a password or pin which is not easy to guess and do not write it down. If you do write it down, secure it.  Do not use the same pin or passwords across all accounts.

Computer etiquettes and its security: Avoid using public computers to access your financial accounts. If you do, make sure there is no added device or program running. Public computers might contain keystroke logging software.  Delete the temporary internet files/cookies and cache from the browser. “Logout” as soon as you are done with accessing your account on a public computer. On your personal computer, make sure antivirus software is installed and up-to date. Wireless networks in hotel, airports, and cafes have a low security setting to cater to everyone. Try to avoid using these hotspots for your financial accounts.

Secure websites and downloading: Most financial websites will be secure websites (having “https” in their web address). Make sure you check the same when accessing your financial statements online. Make sure downloads are from trusted sources. Installing anti-spyware is also helpful.

Reading your statements: Read your monthly account statements as soon as they arrive to check for any unauthorized transaction. Make sure your financial accounts have your updated contact details. If you do find a mistake, make sure you follow up both on phone and email (in writing).

Safeguard your social security number (SSN): Don’t use your SSN as username, password or PIN. Make sure it does not appear on printed checks. If your SSN appears on your driving license, see if you can ask DMV to use an alternative number. Avoid carrying your SSN everywhere. Keep your statements and documents in a safe place, not openly accessible.

Periodic “Identity Theft” Check: Review your credit report from time to time to get an alert on inaccuracies and unauthorized activity. You can get a free credit report every 12 months from three different credit bureaus by contacting the Annual Credit Report Request Service at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only authorized online source to get a free credit report as per Federal Law. Please note that when using this source, you will need to disclose your SSN to get this report.

What to do in case of a compromised identity?
If you notice unauthorized transaction in your account, be sure to contact your financial institutions immediately and notify them. Also notify the credit bureaus to put fraud alert on your file.

For additional information about protecting yourself from financial identity issues, please visit: http://www.finra.org/Investors/ProtectYourself/InvestorAlerts/FraudsAndScams/P037886

Thanks for reading, and until next time… stay WISE!

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