Part II of our “Inherit cash, not chaos” blog series will cover Identity Theft.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Identity theft continues to be the fastest growing crime in the nation affecting more than 11 million people last year! Clearly an identity thief wants access to two things- your current cash and credit and/or your future cash and credit.
Protect your Social Security Number
The start of a new year is a great time to clean out your wallet. Here are some tips:
• Don’t carry your Social Security card or your children’s Social Security Card in your wallet. Keep your original Social Security cards in the Permanent Binder you have created with all your other important documents.
o Only give your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary, ask why the number is needed and who has access to it and how they will keep it confidential.
o Don’t print your SSN on your check. You can just use the last four digits of the SSN, if needed.
• Don’t carry PINs and passwords in your wallet.
• Photocopy all your debit and credit cards, back and front and keep the copy in your Permanent Binder. The back usually has the customer service number you will need to call if your card or wallet is stolen and it also have the three digit security code. Be careful- all copiers have a hard drive that should be erased when the copier is disposed of. If you would like to come by our Wilmington office, we would be happy to make copies for you. We will properly dispose of our copier hard drive.
• Be sure to copy your health insurance cards and any other important information you may need if you wallet is stolen.
Watch your Credit Report
One of the best ways to protect yourself against Identity theft is to check your credit reports. If you discover a credit card you don’t have or a purchase you did not make, you may be a victim of ID theft.
• You are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. To get your free credit reports, go to Annual Report.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you are interested in monitoring your credit year-round, request a free credit report from a different bureau every four months. I will try to remember to remind you in the May and September blog!
A “security freeze” is a consumer right provided by North Carolina law, enacted as part of the Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005. Placing a security freeze on your credit reports blocks access to your credit unless you have given permission. This can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. A security freeze can be lifted (or “thawed”) temporarily when you are applying for credit, or removed permanently. You will still be able to get a free copy of your credit report annually from each credit bureau.
• If you are a parent or guardian, check to see if your child has a credit report. Contact the credit bureaus with proof of the child’s identity and your relationship to the child. If a credit report exists, consider placing a freeze on it.
Destroy Documents You Don’t Need
Your records often contain confidential information- paper or electronic.
• Shred or erase hard drives from old copiers, printers, cell phones and computers that might hold private information. The NC Department of Justice sponsors a free shred-a-thon near you. We are planning a shred-a-thon at our Wilmington office after tax season in April.
• If you are not sure what documents to keep, we have developed a handy resource to help you. Just call our office at 452-5260 and we will be glad to mail you one.