By: Barry G. Allen- President & CEO
From time to time I am invited by churches to conduct a financial planning seminar. In one of the segments I identify “common financial difficulties to avoid,” which includes excessive debt, irregular savings, etc. Also included is what I characterize as “providing personal information to identity thieves,” which is a growing threat to anyone and everyone.
In 2011, 11.6 million Americans, many of whom were older adults, were victims of some form of identity theft which totaled $18B. Identity theft occurs when someone gets access to your social security number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information and then uses your identity for their purposes to steal from you or from others.
There is no absolute protection against identity theft. However, there are actions you can take to minimize your risk.
At the top of the list is to be on guard to protect your SSN. Experts recommend you never carry your social security card with you, never write the number on checks (except as required by the IRS), never give it or any other number, such as credit cards, bank accounts, to strangers who call, visit, text or send email messages to you, even if they appear to be legitimate. Unless you’re going to the doctor, don’t carry your Medicare card with you because it contains your SSN.
Be on guard for emails that claim to be from your bank, credit card company, the IRS, the Social Security Administration. Internet fraud is one of the most likely avenues for identity thieves to use. For tips on how to avoid internet fraud and a list of common online scams go to this website: www.onguardonline.gov.
Be on guard to empty your mailbox promptly, and don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. Shred all records, receipts, mail solicitations and other papers before putting them in the trash. And, finally, review all account statements promptly and ask your bank if it offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity.
The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.