Cook Wealth Management Group

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Have you received a strange call from your “bank”? Seen a weird charge on your statement? These could be signs of identity theft.

In simpler times, thieves picked your pocket or broke in to your home. Now they have more options. From dumpster diving for personal information to more advanced technological methods like internet fraud, identity theft occurs at an alarming rate. The Federal Trade Commission estimates 9 million Americans per year (including children) are victims of identity theft.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Be Cautious

  • Password-protect your computer. The information your laptop stores is as valuable as your cash.
  • Shred documents that contain your personal information. Don’t just throw them out, even ripped in half.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone. If someone works for your bank or credit card company, they shouldn’t need you to tell them your account number. (Even if someone tells you you’re a victim of fraud, don’t provide them with your personal info. Identity thieves often impersonate employees at your bank’s fraud department; they’ll offer just enough information to make you trust them, then ask for a security code or social security number. Don’t talk to them, and call your bank or card company immediately.)

Be Aware

  • Don’t open emails if you don’t recognize the sender, and don’t click links within emails. Doing so may allow a hacker to track your browsing and obtain confidential information.
  • Avoid giving personal information on pages linked from emails. (Scammers often design fake login pages that are convincingly similar in appearance to well-known sites like eBay or PayPal.) Instead of clicking a link within an email, copy and paste the URL into your browser; if accessed this way, a link to a fake page will usually not work.

Be Proactive

  • Review your account activity each month; also check your credit report regularly. Hackers will usually try to get a small purchase by you. They try thousands of 16 digit numbers until they find one account from which they can successfully deduct a few dollars. If you’re reviewing your transactions often, you’ll notice this small charge and block them before they can empty your account. If you find out too late, the repercussions can be more serious.
  • For added security, sign up with a theft prevention company, such as www.lifelock.com or www.identityguard.com. These companies quickly notify you when suspicious charges are made to your credit card and remove you from dangerous mailing lists (pre-approved credit card offers make you an easier target for identity thieves.)
  • Learn more about identity theft prevention by contacting us. If you’re a Cook Wealth client, be assured that we safeguard all your personal information, making every effort to protect your privacy.

Content derived from “About Identity Theft.” www.ftc.gov.
“Ask Kim.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. July 2010.
“Fakes: How scammers are targeting you this holiday season.” www.walletpop.com.
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