New year – new you! Wait, what?
January is our time of resolutions and rebirth. Ads for exercise equipment and gym memberships are everywhere, dogs get more walks, and the nicorette gum sales skyrocket. We are all works-in-progress. This year, achieve self-improvement by upgrading the network that protects you against fraud and the various forms of identity theft.
It’s a smart time for stepping up your security measures. The holiday season is the most popular time of the year for credit-card fraud, bogus transactions, and data interceptions. You could stop any recent breaches in the early stages. Secondly, the pandemic resulted in sharp increases for online transactions. New situations equal new security risks. Identity theft crimes had already been rising for years, and experts say the pandemic steepened that curve. A third reason for taking action is that the US government experienced an unprecedented cyber-attack last month. We don’t know the extent or endgame yet, but we do know the feds have many copies of your sensitive personal data.
Start 2021 off right by taking these 7 steps to protect you and your family against crimes of fraud and identity theft:
1. Update your passwords. Using the same password for everything is a bad strategy. Use a random password generator and develop a robust, secure system for keeping them organized and retrievable. There are reputable apps on smartphones that manage passwords. A secure spreadsheet will do the same thing.
2. Credit monitoring is better than getting an annual report. If you only look at your credit once annually, a lot of damage could occur in the year between. Catch situations like phony credit lines and second mortgages in the early stages by subscribing to an ongoing credit monitoring service. There are numerous free options through banks and independent apps.
3. Scrutinize your holiday credit card statements. Thieves know we’re less likely to notice during the holidays. If you are not doing this monthly, ask yourself why.
4. Check your online security situations. Re-visit the security settings in your email and social media; there might be new options. Consider adding upgrades like two-step verification. Check the device login history for suspicious logins.
5. Practice good safety protocols in public. Thieves are watching, sometimes virtually, other times in person. Be wary of keying in PINs and passwords in public places. Thieves can eavesdrop on public WiFi to see the data being shared, including passwords and account numbers. Even private networks get hacked. Use a VPN when you are not on your home network.
6. Google yourself. You will see if someone made a phony social media account using your name and likeness. Or realize the resume you posted in 2008 is still floating around with personal info. Who knows what you’ll find, but only if you look. Google all forms of your name and your children’s names too.
7. Shred and securely store physical documents. Use a lock and key to store birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, and documents with account numbers. Shred documents with regularity. Go paperless where you can.Pick up your mail every day.
For many victims of identity theft, the mess is resolved in under 5 hours of work, likely spread out over a period of a couple weeks. In more serious cases, where escalating instances of fraud have gone unchecked, the clean-up might take hundreds of hours. A common refrain from victims in severe cases is, “I don’t even know where to start.”
Luckily, professionals know how to help you proceed. Contact the attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman. We’ll help you stop the thieves, erase bogus balances, and restore your good credit rating. If you or someone you know is picking up the pieces from a stolen identity, account-takeover, or phony transactions contact us for help today.