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Keeping Your ID and Account Details Secure

POSTED IN ADVICE ON WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2015

In the age of technology, locking doors, carrying pepper spray, and having a guard dog aren't enough to guarantee protection — especially when it comes to your increasingly digital personal and financial information.

Online identity thieves are an ever-growing threat, joining dumpster divers and card-skimming crooks and costing victims time, energy and money. Here are four tips to help you avoid becoming an easy target.

1. Keep vs. shred. Keep important documents and records secure, either as encrypted files or in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Everything else that arrives on paper and includes more than your name and address ought to be shredded. This includes junk-mail credit offers, medical bills, and credit card and bank statements.

 

Have items to shred? Protect your identity by safely discarding up to 50 pounds of private documents at our Community Shred Day.

 

2. Bolster passwords. If you lived in an unsafe location, you’d likely buy an extra door bolt or bar — so what about your online security? Set up Internet safeguards by regularly changing passwords, using a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. For example, use Timbuktu*37! rather than timbuktu37.

 

3. Using plastic. Beware of shoulder surfing, when people with wandering eyes try to catch a glimpse of the account number and expiration date on your credit card or your debit-card PIN as you punch it in. Credit cards such as those available from Veridian Credit Union come with security and insurance in the event of a faulty or fraudulent transaction.

 

4. Check your credit. Each of the three major credit reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, must give you a free copy of your credit history upon request each year. Space out your requests to one report every four months or so to monitor for signs of fraud. While you’re at it, look for errors that should be corrected. You can order a free report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

What to watch for

 

Don’t just keep an eye out for thieves in back alleys; make sure to have your guard up online as well. Don’t open email that promises an exceptional deal or seeks help making a wire transfer from another country — most likely those are attempts at phishing for your identity and financial information or contain programs to penetrate your computer and deliver that information to crooks. Beware of crafty scammers who send emails under the guise of a traffic authority notifying you of an unpaid toll or red light violation caught by a camera. And watch out for ATMs that don’t look normal or have loose-fitting parts, signs there may be an illicit card skimmer attached to steal your data -- it’s rare, but it happens.

 

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

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