With recent breaches of personal data security from Sony, Michael’s, and a Dallas-based email management company, consumers must take steps to keep their information safe. Think you’re untouchable? Take these easy six steps to make sure.
- Monitor accounts – If you notice something out of the ordinary in your bank or credit card statements, give the company a call. Keep an eye out for charges in other states, online transactions, and gas charges. These transactions are the most commonly made by hackers because they require little, if any, personal interaction, making them an easy way to test a stolen card.
- Change your passwords – Keep your online accounts safe by frequently changing your passwords and making them as strong as possible by using allowed characters and numbers. Make sure to use different passwords for each of your accounts and most importantly don’t share your passwords with anyone. (A good way to keep passwords safe is with a password app or manager.)
- Change your PINs – Like passwords, these numbers need to be kept in a safe place and not in your wallet. Avoid identity theft by knowing what should and should not be in your wallet. Call your bank and credit card company to change them when necessary. Do not use birth dates as PINs as hackers tend to attempt these numbers first.
- Report phishing emails – If you ever get an email asking for your username and password, do not respond. Keep in mind that most banks and credit card companies do not ask for such information via email. Instead forward the email to the bank or credit card company so they become aware that their customers are being targeted.
- Check your credit report – Make it a habit to check your credit report every year to keep your finances clean of any mistakes. You can get a copy of your report online. It’s free once a year.
- Know your rights – Buying identity theft insurance is pricey and not necessary. Under federal law, if unauthorized charges are made with your credit card, the maximum amount you can be liable for is $50, that’s if you report it after the charges have been made and not within 60 days after the billing error. If the charges are made after you report the card lost or stolen, you have no liability.