Last month, I got a letter from the U.S. government which said basically, “We’re sorry but there was a data breach. This means someone may have gotten your personal information from our database and may use it to do evil things against you. Whoops. We’re sorry.”
I guess it’s not all bad. They did offer free credit monitoring just in case someone does use my information for evil. Although I had to sign up for it, which was a pain. But the dashboard is good. It’s pretty interesting peeking into my financial history whenever I like.
A breach of a government database was out of my control. But there are a lot of other things we can all do to help stay a few steps ahead of the criminals. I think of identity fraud much like auto theft. You don’t have to make your car bullet proof, you just have to make it harder to get into than the next guy’s car. It sounds bad but that’s how the system works. Can you imagine when the first car company got door locks? Everyone else had to scramble to get locks on their cars.
Enter Your Card Information at as Few Places as Possible
When you pay with a credit card, you are exposing yourself to a terminal which could be compromised. A hacker could have compromised that store’s card reader and be taking your money. By limiting the places you use your credit cards, that’s exposing yourself to less risk. It’s kind of like eating red meat. It won’t kill you if you eat it every few days. But if you eat it at every meal, you’ll probably be visiting the doctor quite a bit in your future.
Get Ready to Cancel Your Cards ASAP if They Are Stolen
Do you think your card is stolen? Cancel it right away! Get on your phone and search for the number of your credit card companies ‘lost or stolen’ department. It should appear right away in Google. If you find your wallet, you can always get your cards back without a problem. Discover card, for instance, allows you to easily ‘freeze’ your credit card. This deems it useless until it is unfrozen. You can do it easily through the Discover card app.
NEVER Give out Your Information to a Friend/Family Member
If a friend or family member abuses your credit card – that’s fraud and can be seem as identity theft. It’s best to never let anyone else use your card. Even if it’s your child, consider getting them their own card to use. It’ll teach them financial responsibility. It also won’t affect your credit score.
Never Leave a Paper Trail
Forget about paper. It is the 21st century after all. Paper is too easy to lose. And it’s a hassle to shred – which is what you should always do with your paper statements. This also makes it easy for a friend or family member to get your information. A computer locks after a certain period of time. Paper can be read by anyone at any time.
Only Do Business on HTTPS Websites
The ‘S’ in ‘HTTPS’ stands for secure. This is what every reputable site will have if they are a seller of anything. Looks for the ‘S’ in your browser.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
Watch to see if there’s any suspicious activity. I also like to do this because it’s fun. It’s like seeing how well you’re doing at something. Is your credit score clean? Yay! Is it messy? Boo! Time to fix it.
Review Your Credit Card Statements Closely
Credit reports don’t show individual transactions. For that, analyze your credit card statements.
Most credit card companies are good at letting you know about any suspicious card activity. My Discover card actually texts me any time I use the card. I love knowing exactly what’s going on!
I’m a personal finance freelance writer and webmaster. I welcome you to visit me at www.thefrugalpreneur.com