Many of us shop and pay bills online. This is considered safer than writing and mailing checks. However, you are still creating opportunity for identity theft. Here are some things that you can do to guard your information when banking and purchasing on line. These days, many of us do most of our shopping and banking on the web. With all those account numbers and passwords floating around, it’s easy for someone to nab your information and go on a spree.
- · Do not use the same password for your bank accounts and credit card accounts. When selecting a password a longer one is better and make sure it has numbers or symbols. The strongest passwords use the first letters of a sentence that you can remember with a number and a symbol added somewhere.
- · Clear your logins and passwords. This is especially important if you’ve been working on a public computer. Change logins and passwords monthly.
- · Pay for online purchases with your credit card, which has better guarantees under federal law than your online payment services or your debit card or direct withdrawal from your checking account.
- · Be alert for phishing, a trick in which spam or pop-ups mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Always verify that you’re on a familiar Web site with security controls before entering personal data.
- · Monitor your bank and credit card statements. Check your accounts regularly so you know when something’s awry. Purchases you didn’t make should be obvious—like a gas fill-up halfway across the country.
- · Verify your mailing address with the post office and financial institutions. Identity bandits may fill out change of address forms so that delinquent credit notices remain off your paper billing radar.
- · Monitor your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request one every four months, changing bureaus each time. You can order the report directly through each agency, or at annualcreditreport.com. There are hordes of knockoff sites that will try to charge you for your report and other needless services. Scan it for abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open. (And don’t fall prey to faux free credit report advertisements.)
- · Shred sensitive documents. Buy a shredder and regularly shred outdated bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and anything with your personal information before tossing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.