Our 10 Best ID Theft Prevention Tips

Keep­ing your iden­tity safe is impor­tant. If some­one else is able to get their hands on your sen­si­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion infor­ma­tion, not only can they pre­tend to be you for all intents and pur­poses, but they can also take your money, your credit and your entire life  The anonymity of this crime makes many peo­ple feel help­less to pre­vent it.
There is no need to be hope­less though. There are some easy ways that you can keep your iden­tity safe, start­ing today, that can make a world of dif­fer­ence in pro­tect­ing your infor­ma­tion. Here are the Top 10 ID theft pre­ven­tion tips that you can imple­ment today to help to make your iden­tity safer.

1. Don’t carry extra credit or debit cards

Do you have one pri­mary account that you use for spend­ing? Then keep that one card with you and lock up what­ever other ones you may have in a safe loca­tion at home where thieves won’t think to look. Not only does this make it harder for an iden­tity thief to get their hands on all of your accounts, but it will also improve your spend­ing habits.

2. Cross­cut shred­ders are a must have in your home

We all like to joke about the guy who got his tie caught in the shred­der, but those old shred­ders really don’t do any­thing. Straight line cut paper is easy to remove from your trash that is curb­side and can be eas­ily taped together by an iden­tity thief. Look for a cross­cut shred­der that spits out tiny lit­tle pieces of paper. This will dis­cour­age an iden­tity thief to no end.

3. Recy­cle Your shred­ded information

Tak­ing your per­sonal papers that have been shred­ded and dump­ing them into a huge recy­cling bin full of paper elim­i­nates the curb­side thief. Mixed up with lit­er­ally tons of other paper, your iden­tity sim­ply gets lost in the mix.

4. Never carry your Social Secu­rity card

The only rea­son why you need a Social Secu­rity card with you is to pro­vide a copy of it to a new employer, and even then you could make the copy at home. Other com­pa­nies may request your Social Secu­rity card for ver­i­fi­ca­tion of who you are, but you can request alter­na­tive meth­ods of identification.

5. Use one time credit card num­bers while online shopping

Many credit card com­pa­nies offer an online shop­ping ser­vice where they will assign your account a unique num­ber that is good for one pur­chase only that you have autho­rized. This pre­vents iden­tity thieves from get­ting your actual credit card num­ber if you hap­pen to have spy­ware of key­log­ging soft­ware inad­ver­tently installed on your computer.

6. Don’t surf the inter­net with­out anti-virus, anti-spyware, a fire­wall, and anti-malware soft­ware installed.

The inter­net is a dan­ger­ous place thanks to the actions of a few, so to keep your­self safe while work­ing, surf­ing, and play­ing online, be sure to have all the pro­tec­tive ser­vices prop­erly installed and updated on your com­puter. Iden­tity thieves have even started to cre­ate viruses that affect Apple’s O/S, so always remem­ber that every com­puter you own is a poten­tial target.

7. Keep a list of all your finan­cial account num­bers  locked away.

If you do hap­pen to lose your wal­let or purse, or you sus­pect you have become the vic­tim of iden­tity theft, time is of the essence. By hav­ing this infor­ma­tion eas­ily acces­si­ble, you can sim­ply grab your list and start mak­ing calls instead of fum­bling around on the inter­net and through your files try­ing to find it after the fact.

8. Don’t give out any infor­ma­tion to peo­ple you don’t know.

Why would some­one you not know or a com­pany you’ve never done busi­ness with need your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion infor­ma­tion? To steal your iden­tity, that’s why! If you don’t know who is ask­ing for your info, don’t give it to them until you’ve ver­i­fied the authen­tic­ity of their request.

9. Beware aware of “phishing.”

Phish­ing is one of the biggest causes of iden­tity theft around today. Iden­tity thieves get you to give them your infor­ma­tion through a bogus e-mail or even phone call demand­ing you ver­ify your infor­ma­tion to save an account you might have with a legit­i­mate busi­ness. You talk to a con­vinc­ing per­son on the phone or you get trans­ferred to a legit­i­mate look­ing web­site where you “ver­ify” the info, but what you are really doing is sim­ply hand­ing your iden­tity away. You haven’t won any­thing. Your account will not be closed. You do not ever have to give some­one a pass­word or your PIN num­ber. Always, always, always ask ques­tions if you are unsure!

10. Some­times You Can Share Too Much Information

With the inven­tion of social net­work­ing on the inter­net through the var­i­ous web­sites, we tend to get very friendly with a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple who we may not even know per­son­ally. All it takes for an iden­tity thief who has friended or fol­lowed you to get into your home and take your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion infor­ma­tion is for you to post that you’re going to be out for a few hours, that you’re headed out on vaca­tion for a cou­ple weeks, or that you’re in charge of the school car­pool for next week.

Chances are you have pic­tures uploaded of your home that even show your file cab­i­nets, safes, or lock­boxes in the back­ground behind a smil­ing face. Be care­ful about who you decide to let fol­low you & friend you, and then be care­ful about what you share with them. With­out intend­ing to do so, you could be set­ting your­self up for an iden­tity theft inci­dent and not even real­ize it.

Iden­tity theft is the fastest grow­ing crime cur­rently in the United States, and it is grow­ing around the world as well. You can pro­tect your­self against iden­tity theft eas­ily by fol­low­ing these Top 10 guide­lines as con­sis­tently as pos­si­ble, while also look­ing into a credit monitoring pro­tec­tion plan that might fit your extended needs. Iden­tity theft is a $40 bil­lion per year prob­lem – don’t let it cost you too.

Understanding Your Credit Score

Most people these days realize that their entire financial history is chronicled in a detailed credit report. Almost 70% of people, however, don’t realize that the information that those detailed credit reports contain is then calculated into a three digit credit score. You can have a pretty good repayment history on a lot of items, but it doesn’t take too many negative reports on your credit report to make your credit score drop like a heavy rock thrown into a pond. In fact, some negative events can take up to 160 points off of your credit score. That’s definitely something that you don’t want to have happen to you without your knowledge… right? But that can happen to you if you don’t realize the importance of your credit score.

Why is Knowing Your Credit Score Important?

There are two important reasons why it is important to know what your credit score is at minimum on a month-to-month basis:

because lenders will generally grant new lines of credit based off of your credit score & not off of your credit report; and

knowing what your baseline score is will help you be able to determine if an identity thief is prowling around.

Your credit score, which is a number that falls between 300 – 850, is a gauge on the overall health of your financial decision-making. A higher credit score will bring you better interest rates, friendlier repayment terms, and the ability to borrow more money. A lower credit score can result in higher interest rates, rigid repayment terms, and potentially a lack of ability to borrow any money whatsoever.

What is a Good Credit Score?

So what is a good credit score? Anything over 650, as for a vast majority of lenders, this is the number where better rates and terms come into play. Yet remember – a perfect score is 850, so there is 200 points of improvement to be made. The good news is that the average credit score in the United States is 720, so you’ve likely got good credit and you don’t even know it.

When an identity thief strikes by opening up new lines of credit, maximizing those credit lines, and then failing to pay anything on them, your credit score will go down. If an identity thief gets a mortgage in your name that is then foreclosed upon, your credit score could go down as much as 160 points. A false bankruptcy in your name because of an identity thief could result in a credit score reduction of 100 points. That’s why detecting any fluctuation early, even if only a point or two, is so critical to preventing the damage that an identity thief can do.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

Knowing what makes up your credit score helps you to be able to know how you can improve it… and know where identity thieves might be chipping away at you if your score is dropping unexpectedly.

35% Payment History: Having a history making of payments on time and not having any missed payments on all of your credit lines is one of the most important items lenders look at on everyone’s credit history.

30% Amount Owed: This looks at the amounts you owe in relation to the total amount of credit that is available to you. People who are closer to maxing out all their credit limits are deemed to have a higher risk of making late payments in the future, and this can lower their credit score. Not having any credit activity on open credit lines for a lengthy period of time can have the same effect.

15% Length of Credit History: A credit report containing a list of accounts opened for a long time will always help your credit score. Having a lot of new accounts opened in the last few months will not.

10% New Credit: Opening several new lines of credit in a short period of time can lower your credit score twice. Multiple credit report inquiries can represent a greater risk because it appears that you may be attempting to obtain new credit, but this does NOT include any requests made by you, an employer, or by a lender who does so when sending you an unsolicited, “pre-approved” credit offer.  Also, to compensate for rate shopping, the credit score counts multiple inquiries in any 14-day period as just one inquiry instead of multiple inquiries.

10% Types of Credit in Use: Is all of your credit in credit cards? Or do you have a mortgage, a vehicle loan, a department card, & a couple credit cards? More variety will equate to a higher credit score.

How Can You Monitor Your Credit Score?

There are two very easy ways to monitor your credit score. You can:

sign up for an identity theft protection service plan that includes credit score monitoring; or you can pay one of the three major credit bureaus to access your credit score and your credit report.

Now some states do offer their residents the ability to access their credit score for free, in addition to the free credit reports that you are entitled to under Federal and State laws. Be sure to check your local resources to determine what kind of products are available in your area and what you may need to do to be able to access them.

By monitoring your credit at least monthly, you’ll be able to tell if your credit score is doing something that it shouldn’t be doing, and knowing what makes up your credit score can help you to boost it higher. Identity thieves are counting on the fact that you don’t know this information… but they do.

The Hacking Threat For Biometric Scanning Security Devices

Remember when fingerprint and facial recognition scanning was just cool spy tech seen in Mission Impossible movies?  Until recently, only the CIA and top secret spy agencies had this cool technology at their disposal.  Long gone are those days as everyone with a late model cell phone or mobile device can now take advantage of these cool biometric security features.  However, there may be some downsides to unlocking your smartphone or tablet with a scan of your thumbprint or face.

By the year 2019, it’s estimated that there will be nearly 500 million biometric scanners in use around the world.  Amounting to a staggering $25 billion dollar industry.  Biometric scanning is meant to take the place of alpha-numeric passwords that we’ve all used for years and is being touted as a more secure way to lock down your sensitive information.  But just like normal passwords, that are stored on encrypted clouds and servers across the globe, won’t thumbprints and eye scans be susceptible to hacking and theft as well?

But there have already been cases of biometric hacking on a large scale. An estimated 22 million people had their personal data stolen in a massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management in December 2014, including RAND privacy expert and mother of two Rebecca Balebako. She received a letter from OPM last year informing her that her personal information, including her ten fingerprints, were stolen in the breach. –  Read the full article here. 

My question is, what happens when your biometrics are stolen and used for identity theft?  You can’t change your thumbprint every 30 days.  You certainly can’t change the composition of your retina if your eyeball biometrics are hacked.  Nor is it likely you’ll get plastic surgery to change your face, should your facial scan information be stolen.  Once your personal features are stolen, how to you ever get access to your secure websites, devices and information again.  Biometric tech might seem like tricked out technology at the surface, but it’s possible that it may be less secure than the 10 digit passwords we’ve grown accustomed to.

Bankruptcy and Credit Repair Companies

My name is Jon Labella and I am a Bankruptcy Attorney. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk to you about your credit and credit repair services. You can barely pass a corner anymore without seeing signs begging you to call now to fix your credit. Some of these companies provide a legitimate service, but many do not. It’s time for you to get a peek into how credit repair works and see if it’s worth the price.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that everything, good, bad and ugly, stays on your credit report for 7 years from the date it is last reported to the credit bureau. The credit bureaus received massive updates of millions of accounts from national lenders every day. Sometimes mistakes happen and your report may contain inaccurate information. A credit account that isn’t yours, a delinquency that didn’t actually happen, and some stuff that is really old that never went away. Inaccurate or outdated information contained on your credit bureau can and should be removed.

The process is really pretty simple. Pull a copy of your credit bureau report and take a look at it. If you see anything that is old or inaccurate, you file a dispute with the bureau that is reporting it. That sounds pretty involved, but it really is easy to do. Federal law required the credit bureaus to set up a website so that consumers could order their free annual credit report online. You can use this exact same website to file a dispute. The credit bureau requests verification from the creditor, and the creditor has 30 days to respond. If the creditor fails to respond, the entry is removed. If the creditor responds, the credit bureau updates the entry with the new data. If it comes back the same, then it stays.

Most credit repair companies offer to pull your credit report, review it with you to see if there is anything old or wrong, and write dispute letters for you. Nothing is mystical or magical. No special expertise, no special technical training, no advance degrees needed. Look it over, find what’s old or wrong, and let the bureau know. You can do it all online yourself. How much is it worth to have somebody hold your hand while you do that?

That is all legitimate credit repair companies do for you. Now, let’s talk about the not so legitimate ones. Some credit repair companies will tell you that if you bombard the credit bureau with disputes, then the creditor will get overwhelmed and will miss responding to the credit bureau. If the creditor doesn’t respond, the entry will come off. As nice a thought as that is, the bureaus and the creditors caught onto this one and the law has been changed to only allow one dispute per entry. So while that may have worked in the past, it won’t fly now.

Other credit repair companies encourage you to set up an alter ego for yourself by changing your name slightly, altering your social security number, or otherwise adjusting your identity. Common sense should tell you this isn’t cool. Even suggesting that a consumer do this is illegal. Many other credit repair companies just take your money and don’t really do anything for you. I have even heard of one company that charged $500 for a box that had a credit bureau report order form and a bunch of form letters.If you do decide to use a credit repair company, know your rights. All credit repair companies have to use written service contracts and give you a signed copy of it. They have to provide you with a disclosure of your rights regarding credit information. They cannot require payment in advance, and all service contracts carry a 3 day right to cancel. If you have gotten tangled up with a questionable credit repair company, call us. We can help.