While you might spend a huge number of hours each week working at your job or within your small business in order to better your personal finances, the scary truth is that within just a few minutes all your hard work can possibly be undone by a thief who steals your identity or some pertinent data from your organization.
In fact, around 15 million residents in the United States alone have their identity fraudulently used every year. What’s more, those monetary losses that are believed to accrue from this type of theft add up to a whopping $50 billion.
Although the statistics are scary, and hackers come up with increasingly sophisticated techniques to get what they want, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of your identity or other vital information from being stolen.
Utilize Safe Payment Methods
A common occasion where your personal and business information can be compromised is when you pay for goods and services. As a result, that’s when using the safest payment methods available can really make a difference.
When you go to swipe a credit or debit card, or use a digital wallet, make sure that the business you are paying uses a reputable merchant services account. Avoid paying anyone who wants to manually take and enter your credit card details without you being there in person; and investigate which system a store uses when you purchase from their website.
In addition, when you choose a credit card, keep in mind that there are some options that are more secure than others. The newer “smart cards”, as they are called, provide consumers with protection if fraud happens to occur.
These types of credit cards are embedded with EMV microchip technology that is much more secure than the previous magnetic strip cards. Smart cards can only be used when customers enter their own unique PIN, which is safer than using a signature that can be forged easily enough; and in addition, the encrypted microchip on each card is more challenging for thieves to counterfeit.
Another way that you can protect yourself and your business is to keep a watchful eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements. This is because the longer identity theft and fraud goes unnoticed, the harder it is to resolve the issue, the longer it will drag on for, and the more the invasion will cost you monetarily. If, on the other hand, you find out as soon as possible after information is compromised, you can alleviate much of the risk of the data being used by the thief.
One of the best ways to be alerted to stolen credit card details or other data is to regularly look over your statements and account balances. You can also choose to get a copy of your latest credit report from a national provider for additional information. Alternatively, there are multiple credit monitoring services available which will, in exchange for a flat-rate annual fee, review your personal credit report every day and alert you if there are any sudden changes. Some apps are also available which can monitor your credit scores for free.
Some examples of changes to look out for are things like:
- Updates to personal information that you didn’t authorize
- Delinquent payments
- Inquiries about, or openings of, new credit accounts
- Changed public records
- A suddenly improved payment history
Read Up on Common Scams
You can also protect yourself and your business by making sure you’re aware of the most common scams that thieves use to obtain identity information. For starters, know that you need to be very selective about who you give sensitive data to, and how it is conveyed.
For example, you should never provide address, birthday, credit card, or other pertinent details on a website that is unsecured. Instead, only ever enter your information on secured pages which are encrypted or scrambled. You can discern these by looking for the “https” (instead of “http”) listing in the URL of the page, or by keeping an eye out for a padlock symbol.
In addition, be very cautious about giving out your data over the phone, via email, or even in person, as you could find yourself being scammed by someone purporting to be from an organization when they’re not. If you’re ever contacted by someone directly who asks you to provide private information, refuse to give out the details or have them prove their identity beyond a shadow of a doubt first.