What would you do tomorrow if your identity was stolen and somebody had emptied your bank account? The odds of it happening to you are about 1 in 15. If we had the same odds to win the lottery, we would all be at the gas station buying tickets right now!
Do you have other ways to get money? Is your emergency fund protected and easily accessible for a smooth transition?
What is your bank’s policy regarding identity theft?
If you do not have a plan to avoid identity theft, or a plan of action in the event of identity theft, you have some work to do. Although it’s not as exciting to think about as winning the lottery, it’s a big step you can take to protect your financial security that won’t cost you a penny. And isn’t that pretty exciting?
Without further ado, here are my top 10 suggestions to protect yourself.
- When completing online transactions, use a credit card whenever possible instead of a debit card. If somebody hacks a credit card, it’s not going to hijack your entire income. It is SO MUCH easier to resolve a fraud issue with a credit card company than a bank. Banks require forms and most importantly TIME to refund your money. Do you have time to have the money in your bank account gone or frozen?
- Put a fraud alert on your credit reports with the three big agencies; Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. This is a free and easy thing that can be done on their respective websites. When you have a fraud alert on your file, each time a new line of credit is requested, the creditor must contact you directly to verify it is actually you requesting the credit.
- Keep your emergency fund at a separate institution. Do not have a savings account linked to your checking account at your bank that contains all of your back up funds.
- Keep your passwords secure. Don’t use the same password for every account, and be sure to mix in symbols and numbers. A lot of places force you to do this now, but even if they don’t, do it on your own.
- Find out the identity theft policy at your bank and any financial institutions. As tedious as that sounds, it will come in very handy when something happens and you need to act quickly to stop any further charges.
- Review ALL of your statements completely each month. Question all transactions that you do not recognize immediately. There is often a time-frame involved to dispute charges, so act quickly.
- Don’t automatically give your social security number to anybody who asks for it. Obviously not to random people, but places like doctor’s offices don’t always really need it. They have it on their form and they would like for you to provide it, but it’s not always necessary. I always leave it blank and no office has ever asked me for it.
- Use a shredder for your sensitive mail, and stop your mail every time you go out of town. Stopping your mail is very simple and can be done on the usps.com website or in person at the post office. You can even do it ahead of time. It works like a charm.
- Use a password or pattern lock on your phone. Does your phone autofill? Have PayPal linked to any apps? Ever bought anything online with your phone? Enough said…lock it.
- Get your mail every day, and open all of it. You never know when something will show up that tips you off to fraud. Check everything with your child’s name, too. Minors get their identities stolen, too.
Whether you are just beginning a budgeting journey, are in the middle of your journey, or feel like you have a solid handle on your finances, these things should all be part of your life. None of them cost a penny to implement, just a little of your time. Identity theft has the ability to derail the most organized of financial plans and destroy your credit score, it is worth the time investment to protect yourself against it.
Want to discuss more strategies to protect your finances? Schedule a free 30 minute discovery call with me. Fill out this application and we’ll get a time scheduled!