While you may think that it’s unlikely that your identity will be stolen, the truth is – hackers and fraudsters are getting sneakier and more creative by the day.   The best way to help protect yourself:  Treat your personal information like cash – don’t hand it out to just anyone.    Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, bank account and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. Every time you are asked for your personal information think about whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy.

Here are some best practices you can follow to protect your information:

  1. NEVER give out personal or account information over social media, text, email or phone.  For example, a reputable company will NEVER call their customer and ask for sensitive information, for any reason!   If they do – it’s probably a scam.  If you’re unsure of whether a caller is legit – hang up and cal’ back the business.
  2. Don’t assume ads or emails are from reputable companies. Many online hackers get personal information by tricking consumers to click on a certain link.  Take a moment to research the company through a trusted search engine.   If you find a lot of bad reviews, it’s probably not worth the risk.  One big indicator is a misspelling error on the ad or email, if an email is sent and has multiple errors, you might want to double check the email address.
  3. Give personal information over encrypted websites only. If you’re shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure). If any part of your session isn’t encrypted, the entire account and your financial information could be vulnerable.
  4. Protect your passwords. The longer the password, the tougher to crack.  Use at least 10 characters; plus mix letters, numbers and special characters. Never use your name, birth date, common words or the same password for many accounts.  And whatever you do – don’t share passwords over the phone, in texts or by email.  Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password.  If you get such a message, it’s most likely a scam.
  5. Don’t overshare on social media.  Sharing too much on social media may put your personal information in the wrong hands. Pay attention to not only the pictures and posts you share, but also to your privacy settings, so that you’re limiting the number of people who can see what you’re sharing.  Never publicly post info such as an address, phone number, etc. that could be valuable to an identity theft.
  6. Be Careful with ATM’s  Recently we have noticed skimmers on ATM’s all over the country.  Skimmers are devices that hackers use to collect your card information.  They come in all shapes and sizes and appear very convincing.  Before inserting your card into the ATM, follow these steps first:
    1. Look for anything out of the ordinary like tape, glue marks, or machine scratches.  If you find anything suspicious, its best to to not risk it and try another ATM.
    2. Pull on the card reader – see if it is loose.  If it is, notify the bank or police and do NOT continue with your transaction.
    3. Cover your PIN – Some skimmers could contain a camera to record your PIN number.  It’s a good habit to just use your other hand to cover up the PIN-pad when you type in your PIN.
    4.  ALWAYS check your financial records to make sure all the transactions belong to you.  If you find anything that is NOT legitimate, it’s safe to put a hold on your card and contact the company that you’re unsure about.

These fraudsters get more and more creative and it’s always good to stay on the lookout to protect as much of your personal information as possible.  We hope you find these tips helpful!

Lindsey G.

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