With the convenience of finding information on the internet comes a more definite likelihood of identity theft or data breaches through credit bureaus like the recent one with Equifax which has affected the credit scores of many people. This is not only a huge inconvenience to deal with, but, if you are amidst the process of refinancing, selling or purchasing a new home, it can be an even bigger hassle. After all, credit scores impact whether or not you will receive an affordable rate and that can also be the deciding factor as to whether or not you can even receive an approval from the property management company or lender. While there is no guarantee that you will be safe from ending up in this kind of situation, there are things you can do on your end to remain aware and to keep the chances to a minimum.
Keep Information Secure
Online scam artists go searching for money and financial information by sending official-looking emails that appear to be from a banking institution and in some cases, your bank. These messages request you to click on a link to re-enter personal data or call a phone number to verify information where the person on the other end seems to know enough about your credit history to get you to voluntarily provide more information. The key is to always call your bank directly and ask if they did send you a message and if so, it is more than likely also listed in the secure message center section of your online banking site. Never call the phone number listed on the message, always refer to the one on the back of your credit or banking card or locate the phone number on the official secure website. This also includes attempts by the IRS or any other Government affiliates and collections agencies.
Be Cautious Using Apps or Social Media Sites To Send Money
PayPal, Venmo, Facebook Messenger and Zelle have all become common places for friends or family members to send each other money. Be it emergency funds or reimbursement for a concert or last week’s girl’s night out, make sure that it is, in fact, the person you know requesting the money and it is always best to keep your activity private. You don’t need to share the transaction like a Facebook status. Also, never send funds to anyone you do not know personally. We all have those “friends” on social media but unless you have met them in person, you are risking the work of a hacker or scammer.
If you partake in online bill payments, make sure to have these automatically set up through the secure website of your banking or credit card institution and try to only check your information or banking balances, etc when using your private home Wifi because, in public places, your information can be seen by others using the public WiFi too. This includes places like Starbucks. If you absolutely must do this, keep it to a minimum and just be aware.
Invest In A Shredder
Chances are you have already joined the “go green” bandwagon and therefore get very little paper billing statements or banking statements sent to you anymore. However, if you do, it is wise to either keep them locked in a metal file cabinet or to shred each page that includes any personal information including name, account numbers, social security numbers or anything that can be used.
Visit The Post Office
If you still prefer to do things the old fashioned way and either send bill payments or checks by mail. It is best to bring those payments directly to the post office or drop in a blue United States Postal Service mailbox. And if you continue to receive receipts or statements by mail as well, then it is best to have a secure mailbox because mailbox thieves have become common and this is is just another way to become a victim of having your financial information compromised.
Keep Your Social Security Card and Passport At Home
Technically, we shouldn’t need these items in our wallets or purses every day so when you aren’t out applying for a loan or passport or traveling, these items should be kept securely locked in a safe or file cabinet at home.
Cover Your PIN Number and Avoid Apple Pay
When you are out and about at the ATM or the grocery store or buying that overpriced latte, always make sure no one is looking when you are entering your pin number and after you do enter it, put your finger on all of the numbers after so the next person cannot use a device to see what numbers you did press. Also, Apple Pay may be convenient but again, this can be a dangerous way to pay for things and unlock all of your information including contacts, phone activity, sites visited and financial information or stored passwords.