Protect Yourself against
February 24, 2015
Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your
dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your
computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they?
Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max
out your credit cards, open new accounts in your
name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes
on the basis of your credit history. If they give your
personal information to the police during an arrest
and then don’t show up for a court date, you may be
subsequently arrested and jailed.
And what will you get for their efforts? You’ll get the
headache and expense of cleaning up the mess they
You may never be able to completely prevent your
identity from being stolen, but here are some steps
you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a
Check yourself out
It’s important to review your credit report periodically.
Check to make sure that all the information contained
in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any
You may get your credit report for free once a year.
To do so, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you need to correct any information or dispute any
entries, contact the three national credit reporting
agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Secure your number
Your most important personal identifier is your Social
Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never
carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll
need it. The same goes for other forms of
identification (for example, health insurance cards)
that display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as
your driver’s license number, request an alternate
Don’t have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and
don’t let merchants write it on your checks. Don’t give
it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an
organization you trust. Ask the three major credit
reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit
reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment
applications; offer instead to provide it during a job
Don’t leave home with it
Most of us carry our checkbooks and all of our credit
cards, debit cards, and telephone cards with us all the
time. That’s a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is
stolen, the thief will have a treasure chest of new toys
to play with.
Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any
one trip. And keep a written record of all your account
numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the
telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud
departments in a secure place–at home.
Keep your receipts
When you make a purchase with a credit or debit
card, you’re given a receipt. Don’t throw it away or
leave it behind; it may contain your credit or debit
card number. And don’t leave it in the shopping bag
inside your car while you continue shopping; if your
car is broken into and the item you bought is stolen,
your identity may be as well.
Save your receipts until you can check them against
your monthly credit card and bank statements, and
watch your statements for purchases you didn’t make.
When you toss it, shred it
Before you throw out any financial records such as
credit or debit card receipts and statements,
cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive
in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a
cross-cut shredder. If you don’t, you may find the
panhandler going through your dumpster was looking
for more than discarded leftovers.
Keep a low profile
The more your personal information is available to
others, the more likely you are to be victimized by
identity theft. While you don’t need to become a
hermit in a cave, there are steps you can take to help
minimize your exposure:
telemarketers, list your telephone number with the
Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call
Registry by registering online at
and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing
lists register online with the Direct Marketing
Association at www.dmachoice.org
prepared by the three national consumer reporting
agencies, register online at
investment firm, insurance company, and credit
card companies, opt out of allowing them to share
your financial information with other organizations
and address removed from the telephone book
and reverse directories
Take a byte out of crime
Whatever else you may want your computer to do,
you don’t want it to inadvertently reveal your personal
information to others. Take steps to help assure that
this won’t happen.
Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining
information from your hard drive or hijacking your
computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is
especially important if you use a high-speed
connection that leaves you continuously connected to
the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection
software and update it on a regular basis.
Try to avoid storing personal and financial information
on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more
than your computer. If you must store such
information on your laptop, make things as difficult as
possible for a thief by protecting these files with a
strong password–one that’s six to eight characters
long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case),
numbers, and symbols.
“If a stranger calls, don’t answer.” Opening e-mails
from people you don’t know, especially if you
download attached files or click on hyperlinks within
the message, can expose you to viruses, infect your
computer with “spyware” that captures information by
recording your keystrokes, or lead you to “spoofs”
(websites that replicate legitimate business sites)
designed to trick you into revealing personal
information that can be used to steal your identity.
If you wish to visit a business’s legitimate website,
use your stored bookmark or type the URL address
directly into the browser. If you provide personal or
financial information about yourself over the Internet,
do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is
secure, look for a URL that begins with “https”
(instead of “http”) or a lock icon on the browser’s
And when it comes time to upgrade to a new
computer, remove all your personal information from
the old one before you dispose of it. Using the
“delete” function isn’t sufficient to do the job; overwrite
the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The
minimal cost of investing in this software may save
you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.
As the grizzled duty sergeant used to say on a
televised police drama, “Be careful out there.” The
identity you save may be your own.
Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.
Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge does not offer tax advice. Cambridge and Independence Capital Financial Partners are not affiliated.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015