Our Thinking

Risky Business: Identity Theft

We’ve all heard the horror stories of people whose identities have been stolen. Their bank accounts are wiped out, credit cards maxed out, and they feel terribly violated. Then after the “theft” has been discovered, they are faced with the hassle of rebuilding their financial reputation, one step at a time.

Too often, these people are partly to blame: in today’s age of social media transparency and slick Google searches, their information is laid open and bare… by them, usually unwittingly.

While there are no guarantees, here are some simple steps you can take to protect your name, and avoid the bad guys:

1) Don’t “Tweet” or post a status message that you will be out of town: it’s too easy for someone to electronically ‘case’ your profile, and then break into your real-world home and steal you blind.

2) Be careful how many personal details you post. Don’t post your birthday, Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, etc. These can be used by others to impersonate you over the phone, get newly issued copies of REAL identification sent out, and apply for new credit cards.

3) Don’t have easily guessable passwords. Use at least six digits, and always include numbers and punctuation.

4) Register on as many social media sites as you can with your name, before others who have your name do so. That way, if someone searches for your name within a particular site, they’re more likely to find you. Check out www.knowem.com – this site makes it very easy.

5) Only accept connections, friends, etc from people who you know in the real world. If you want to accept everyone, only let them see limited information.

6) Don’t respond to email requests that let you know that you’ve won millions of dollars. This is just a come-on to get you to reveal your banking information for them to “deposit” your winnings. (Instead, they siphon your account dry.)

This week’s action item: There is always a balance between sharing important information with your connections, and clamming up tight because of security concerns. This week, review your profiles for anything that could be used by a scam artist – and delete it.