The newsLINK Group - How to Guard Against Identity Theft

Editorial Library Category: General Business Topics: Identity Theft Title: How to Guard Against Identity Theft Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Is any time of the year a good time to have your identity stolen? Probably not – but some are undoubtedly worse than others. The summer months are bad because that’s when people are most likely to be on vacation; the holidays are bad because that’s when everyone makes their holiday purchases. Editorial: How to Guard Against Identity Theft 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 Is any time of the year a good time to have your identity stolen? Probably not — but some are undoubtedly worse than others. The summer months are bad because that’s when people are most likely to be on vacation; the holidays are bad because that’s when everyone makes their holiday purchases. No matter how conservatively people live the rest of the year, any kind of a holiday mood is likely to get people feeling like they want to live a little more loosely than usual. It’s a time to be generous, to make some memories, and it’s also a time when almost everyone is correspondingly more vulnerable to identity theft. The most recent high-profile example of this is the data breach last year at Target and Nieman Marcus. At Target, personal data for 110 million customers was exposed in the data breach; at Nieman Marcus, the number of customers whose personal data was exposed was 1.1 million. Some reports on the data breach said the data was lost, but “lost” is absolutely the wrong word to use in this context. You can lose a hat or a wallet, but if another person deliberately takes information belonging to another person, especially if the information is taken by hacking or otherwise gaining access to electronic records, the right word is something along the lines of “stolen.” According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, which summarizes the number of data breaches that take place each year, there had been 404 data breaches by July 15, 2014. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you find out that the number of exposed records was 11,054,654. What makes it worse? This time last year, the number of breaches was 335. That’s a 20.1 percent increase. What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft? Scott A. Merritt has some suggestions. His information was stolen in 2006. In 2007, when he was already working through the process of disputing financial charges, police stopped him for a traffic violation and arrested him for a felony he hadn’t committed. Proving his innocence required the help of his U.S. congressman; before he was done, he had to convince the FBI, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Secret Service, and the state police that his prints didn’t match the ones of the actual perpetrator. Straightening out all the problems that resulted cost him $3.8 million and a real hit to his business. He wrote a book about his experiences to educated people about how to deal with identity theft; ironically, it was published December 18, 2013, when people were still wrapping their minds around the data breach at Target and Neiman Marcus. But even though it is important to know how to deal with identity theft, it is more important to prevent the theft in the first place. According to a 2012 survey by CreditDonkey.com, this is especially true because 66 percent of those who end up being forced to deal with fraudulent charges noticed the charges before their financial institutions did. Below, Mr. Merritt’s top suggestions for making sure that your identity is safe. Identity theft is most likely to happen where business is conducted. A business might be robbed, a business employee might steal information, or a hacker gains access to company information through a computer. You need to have a record of everything in your wallet. Make a copy, front and back, of everything you carry, including photos and membership cards. Put the copies in the same order as the items in your wallet, and then store them in a safe or strong box. Be extremely picky, and extremely consistent, about your personal information in all identity and financial documents. If you use a middle initial, use it all the time or not at all; also, you should keep any addresses up-to-date and consistent. Little discrepancies can make it hard to prove you are who you say you are, and they can also affect your credit score. Change your online passwords twice a year, but not always at the same time. (You don’t want to be too predictable.) If you shop online, be picky about where you shop; you want to do business only with companies

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