Warning: Hackers on the Prowl – Protect Your Personal Information
You’ve just heard the news – the data files of your favorite retail store have been hacked, leaving your personal information at risk. The most damaging piece of information being your social security number. Your credit could be ruined – your identity may have been stolen by some guy with a bad DMV record, jacking up your car insurance rates.
Unfortunately, hackers are now part of the technological landscape. They have mischief in mind and wreaking havoc is their ultimate goal in life. It’s not only national retailers they aim their destructive intentions at. In the past few years, they’ve managed to break entry codes of top secret governmental agencies, as well as major educational institutions.
And, now they’ve been focusing on gaining access to retail store data and banking information, creating millions of victims in the process. Staying a step ahead of the hackers has become a fulltime job. Short of closing all your credit card accounts or paying cash for everything you purchase, there are a few ways to combat hackers to reduce the chance of being a victim or to minimize the damage if you become one.
Recent studies show that incidents of identity fraud affected more than 5% of the U.S. population in 2013 at a loss of $21 billion. And, it’s on the increase. So, pay attention and consider the suggestions below to stay on top of your finances:
1. Watch your accounts like a hawk – Don’t wait to be notified by your bank or credit card companies to take action. By then, damage may have already been done and you’ll have to dispute a bunch of charges that aren’t yours. Contact them to inform them of a possible compromise of your accounts so they can red flag your account and notify you of unusual activity. Furthermore, continue to check your bank and card statements.
2. File an Identity Theft Report – If you know for a fact your personal information has been compromised, immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect yourself and obtain an FTC complaint, called an FTC Affidavit. Take the completed form, which is designed for consumers who are victims of a data breach, to the nearest police agency and file a separate report. The two reports will make up your Identity Theft Report and keep you from being liable for unapproved charges.
3. Check your credit report – Per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed one free report every year from the three major credit reporting companies. You can get it at www.annualcreditreport.com. Go over each one carefully for any suspicious applications for credit cards, car loans, etc. Notify the bureaus immediately of any unknown credit apps and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your file, making it harder for would-be identity thieves to apply for credit under your name. Dispute discrepancies and inaccuracies as soon as you spot them. If your dispute is found to be valid, the information will be removed.
4. Think about getting identity theft protection – There are several companies out there which, for a nominal cost, keep an eye on your credit reports and other possible fraudulent activity for you. They not only block a thief from accessing a loan or other credit under your name, but will notify you of such activity as it happens.
So, don’t let paranoia get the better of you. Just take steps to protect yourself and your credit.
Also, protect yourself from paying too much for your car insurance. Why not get a free car insurance quote today?
Have you ever been victimized by an identity thief? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.