How to Protect Yourself from Fraud & Identity Theft

How to Protect Yourself from Fraud & Identity Theft

If you haven’t been hacked yet, there’s a significant chance you will. The number of people falling prey to identity scams, cyber-attacks, and straight-up theft climbs every year. One troubling truth of the Digital Age is the amount of your information available online somewhere. 

With all the convenience of the internet comes the unfortunate reality that it is more convenient for others to access your info too. It may seem daunting, but there are absolutely things you can do to make it more difficult for someone to gain access to your accounts and identity. 

You are in a competition against fraudsters to keep your money yours. There is no fool-proof way to 100% prevent issues. Fortunately in this arena you can gain a head-start against your rivals – but only if you take action. Like any good matchup, you need to think both offensively and defensively. An offensive strategy makes your identity/accounts more difficult to access in the first place, and a defensive strategy mitigates the impact of breaches when they happen.

So if you’ve been overwhelmed by the challenge of keeping your assets safe, now is the time to build a game plan for protecting your finances. Here are our top tips for fighting back:

The Offensive strategies:

  1. Set up Fraud Alerts or Credit Freezes. One of the best ways to lock down your identity is to freeze your credit at each of the four credit bureaus. This makes it more difficult for imposters to set up new accounts in your name. Of course, this also means it will be more difficult to open legitimate accounts yourself.

    If you want to keep your credit open, a Fraud Alert can add a lesser barrier. Before information can be released, your identity must be verified by the business requesting info. 
  1. Manage passwords actively. Bad password management – such as reusing passwords – is easy but dangerous. Getting serious about upgrading your login game is one of the most effective ways at locking down your identity.

    Improve passwords by using a Password Manager. Transitioning to these can be difficult at first, but once completed, is a very smooth way to keep track of online accounts.

The Defensive strategies:

  1. Keep on the lookout. An effective defense means staying vigilant to spot issues quickly. This means regularly reviewing accounts for unfamiliar transactions. Watch mail for evidence that someone is using your name fraudulently. Be cautious about giving information over the phone or clicking on links/attachments in email.
  1. Check credit reports regularly. The big credit bureaus keep track of your accounts and personal information. The Credit Reports you can request do not tell you your FICO credit score; they show all known debt accounts and applications associated with your name. It’s a good idea to review yours regularly to make sure things haven’t been created or modified without your knowledge.
  1. Sign up for a monitoring service. Hiring a professional monitoring service is the most common way people fight fraud. It can be a useful tool, but doing that alone is much like playing a football game with no one on defense except your safeties. It prevents nothing – just tells you when something is already happening. But embedded in a bigger strategy it is an automated way to stay vigilant.

    Many get monitoring through credit cards or employee benefits. Lifelock is well known due to their advertising, but Zander is one we often recommend for a fraction of the cost.
  1. Add theft remediation coverage. No matter how careful, it’s possible thieves will succeed. Certain thefts, such as from bank accounts or credit cards, are usually taken care of by the bank or card company. But many others aren’t. In these cases, it’s important to have ID theft coverage in place.

    A good remediation policy should provide two things: (1) professional assistance for recovering your identity, and (2) repayment of stolen funds/recovery expenses. The Zander policy mentioned above includes $1 million of coverage for such things.

These strategies won’t guarantee thieves will never score against you. However, they’ll mitigate the chance and make it easier to recover from whatever happens. It’s not too late to get your game plan in place today.

As always, we’re here to help! If you’ve been targeted by a financial scam, reach out to your Wealth Advisors to come up with a personalized plan for your situation.

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