Written by Thomas M. Geier, CPA, CFP®, PFS
Identity theft has become one of the most prolific and damaging crimes within the last decade. The tremendous benefits of technology for increasing productivity through the sharing of data also have a dark downside. All of that information about you is “out there”, and in many cases can be compromised. The recent discovery that millions of federal employees’ records were hacked is a prime example.
The problem is that information about you and your finances is valuable. It can be used by proper sources to make your life better, but also can be sold or stolen by those who would do you harm. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your data is safer and your chance of becoming a victim to identity fraud is minimized.
- Be careful with whom you share information. Always know who is asking for any specific data about you, how they will use it, and how they will protect it. If someone calls and asks for information, check the caller id to make sure they are who they say they are. If in doubt, hang up.
- Protect your valuable papers. Keep anything that has sensitive information about you in a safe place or locked up. Don’t leave anything lying around if others have access to your home, such as repair workers or cleaning services. Buy a shredder. Destroy any mail or paper that has names, dates, or other facts about you on it that can be used to gain an advantage for harm. Don’t leave mail sitting in a mail box for too long.
- Keep your computers turned off when not in front of them. Be careful of public wireless access and avoid transmitting sensitive data over public hot spots. Change passwords as often as possible. Make sure they are difficult to guess. Use computer security programs, firewalls, and anti malware detection.
- Check your credit reports, for you and your children who live with you too. Child identity theft can be just as damaging. Set up fraud alerts on your bank account and credit cards for any suspicious use. If a charge over a certain level is made, the card company can alert you on your phone or through email.
- Be discreet in use of social media. Make sure only people you know have access to your postings of personal information.
- File your taxes early and with a professional preparer who utilizes secure data links and protected files.
- Read privacy notices. These disclosures outline how any information about you is shared with other sources. When possible, opt out of any permissions to provide your data to another entity.
The Federal Trade Commission publishes a very valuable consumer protection bulletin, “Taking Charge.” It not only outlines how to protect yourself, but gives steps to take if you are a victim of identity fraud. A copy is available here.
The Security and Exchange Commission is very strict on the need for investment advisors to have proper privacy policies in place for the protection of their clients. At Geier Asset Mangement, we take the security of your valuable information very seriously. We do our very best to keep your financial data safe. Feel free to ask us about any concerns you may have about possible indentity theft. We can discuss with you your specifc situation and help you put any protections in place.
© Geier Asset Management, Inc. June 2015. Thomas M. Geier is a Vice President of Geier Asset Management, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. The above blog reflects the opinions of Mr. Geier and not necessarily the firm. Any advice given is general in nature and investors must consider their own individual circumstances. Past performance is no indicator of future performance. The firm makes no warranties or representations of any kind relating to the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.