Part 1 of a 3 part series on financial security
In the past, I’ve occasionally sent letters on ways to protect your finances from crooks and criminals. Many people have told me how much they appreciate these letters, so I thought it might be a good idea to delve even deeper into the topic of financial security. After all, protecting what you have is important no matter who you are.
So for the next few months, I’m going to devote each letter I send to a different aspect of financial security. This month, let’s start with the Big One: identity theft.
Many things have changed over the last couple of decades; some things for the better, others for the worse. Credit and debit cards have made it easier to pay for your purchases, but they’ve also made it easier for hackers and con artists to get the information they need to steal your identity. This is especially true when paying for goods and services over the internet.
The scariest thing? Most people don’t know they’re a target until it’s too late.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your identity. The first step is to recognize the most important tools you have to combat identity theft.
AWARENESS AND KNOWLEDGE
Identity thieves target many different types of people, but the older you get, and the closer you are to retirement, the higher up their list you go. Why? Because older adults frequently have access to cash they’ve been saving up for their entire lives. Many older adults also have great credit that they’ve been building up over a long period of time. Additionally, some people value their independence so much they are hesitant to report that their finances or identity have been compromised, fearing their relatives will think they can’t handle things on their own.
So how can you protect yourself and your loved ones? Here are some other steps you can take:
Do not publish the date of birth and death in obituaries. Dishonest people can use that information to obtain a death certificate, which usually includes the social security number for the deceased individual.
Don’t make impulsive decisions based on fear. If you receive an email or phone call stating that it’s from your bank or the government, and that you’re in trouble, look into it before providing the sender with any personal information. Typically, the government will not contact you by email or phone. They will contact you by mail. Your bank will never ask you to provide information through email either. If you’re concerned about the credibility of a call or email from your bank, contact the nearest branch and ask them.
- If someone contacts you saying they’re a relative in trouble and need your help, ask them something that only your relative would know. Or ask a trick question that reveals they’re lying, such as “How’s your dog Scruffy? Did he get better?” when you know that relative doesn’t have a dog. If they say “Oh he’s doing much better,” then you know they’re a fraud and you should immediately hang up.
- Keep all personal documents in a safe place. Don’t carry them around with you, especially not your Social Security card.
- Don’t open emails from senders you don’t recognize. These can be disguised as special offers for things such as “weight loss,” miracle cures for different ailments, or products at unbelievably low prices. Scammers keep coming up with new subjects to hook you.
These are just a few things that can help you avoid becoming a victim of finance or identity fraud. Also, there are companies that can help you stay protected and informed. Here’s a link to a site that lists the top rated companies that can help to defend your identity: www.top10identitytheftprotection.com. I hope you found this information valuable. Feel free to share it with your loved ones so they may stay informed as well. Above all, don’t become a victim! Take a proactive approach to protect yourself, your family, and your retirement.