How to protect yourself from identity theft
MANILA, Philippines - You don’t think it can happen to you – until it does and you become one of the growing number of victims of identity theft worldwide.
Through the years, identity thieves have become increasingly resourceful in the ways they steal personal information. They send out phishing email messages, or rummage through garbage dumps, even pretend to be representatives of credible organizations just so they can get enough information to take-over their victims’ bank or credit card accounts.
Once they do, in a matter of minutes, they can process a wide range of financial transactions such as credit card purchases or large withdrawals via ATM. Others would even apply for new credit cards to run up more charges. The resulting damage on the victim’s finances, psyche, and reputation can be devastating, to say the least.
Don’t wait until this happens to you. An ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure, so take the necessary steps to secure your personal information both online and off to protect yourself from such a crime.
Safeguard your personal information offline
Secure all official documents pertaining to your identity, from your birth certificate and marriage contract to your passport, as well as all your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, preferably under lock and key. Do a regular check of your documents to make sure that they are in good condition.
Limit the number of identification and credit cards that you carry in your wallet at any given time. At all times, be conscious of where your wallet is, whether it’s in your bag or your back pocket.
Go through every transaction on your bank and credit card statements carefully. Be on the alert for withdrawals that you don’t remember doing or credit card purchases at shops that you are unfamiliar with. These are possible signs that your information has been compromised. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
Don’t just throw official receipts, checks, bank statements, insurance forms, and other such documents in the trash can. Shred them into tiny bits, making sure that it bears no recognizable form of information.
Last but not least, do not just share your personal information to anybody. Do not reveal your birthday or your mother’s maiden name to someone who contacted you over the phone offering a deal. At work, at the doctor’s office, or in your child’s school, you might be asked to divulge personal information. Be clear as to how such information will be used – and what measures these institutions have in place to protect your data.
Secure your life online
Protect all the information you have in your gadgets, whether it’s a notebook, laptop, or smart phone, by enforcing a variety of security measures. Lock up your devices with a password. This way, you and only you can get to the information in your devices. In the event that your gadget is stolen, thieves cannot easily procure your data. Install anti-spy and anti-virus software on your devices. These will not only guard your online life against intrusions and infections, it will also alert you on any attempts to break into your firewall, depending on the program you used. The more security measures you use, the better.
Come up with strong passwords, using both lower and upper cases, for your various accounts, whether it’s your laptop, email, or bank account. Make it as unique as possible. It is also advisable to change your passwords every three months or so.
When you get a message from a person or organization that you are not familiar with, do not open the file that comes with it or click on the link attached. These attachments could possibly unleash a virus or spyware on your computer, making your data vulnerable to cyber-thieves.
Free Wi-Fi is good, but only if you are absolutely sure that your information will be protected. An encrypted website only protects the data you send to and from the site. A secure wireless network protects all the data you send on the network.
Examine the information you are sharing over social networks. Over-sharing can make the work of identity thieves easy, especially if you readily and regularly giving intimate details of your life. Make sure that the people who can access your information are really friends, not just acquaintances. Review your privacy settings regularly.
Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.
Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information.