Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

In today’s digital world, we can do just about everything online.  Shop, pay bills, sell items, you name it.  However, some have learned the hard way that this type of convenience comes with a high risk. 

Each year, over 15 million cases of identity theft are reported due to increased levels of information sharing and low levels of consumer protection knowledge.  At Blais Insurance, we want you to understand how to avoid these unfortunate instances by following these simple and effective tips:

Only carry essential documents with you
Not carrying extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport with you outside the house can help you prevent identity theft.

Keep new checks out of the mail
When ordering new checks, you can prevent identity theft by picking them up at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by thieves.

Secure your network
If you have a wireless network at home or at work, make sure that you secure it. A hacker can gain access to information sent through an unsecured network in a matter of seconds.

Only make purchases on trusted sites
When shopping online, stick with trusted, well-known online retailers, or smaller sites that use reputable payment processors like PayPal or Google Checkout. Always make sure to look for the padlock icon on the bottom of your browser to verify that the page is safe.

Stay on top of your credit
Make sure your credit reports are accurate and that you sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can alert you about changes in your credit report by email.

Create passwords or PIN numbers out of a random mix of letters and numbers
Doing so makes it harder for identity thieves to discover these codes, and makes it easier for you to prevent identity theft.

Don’t reuse passwords
This way, if someone does find out what your password is for one credit card, they won’t also be able to access your other accounts.

Following these simple steps may not guarantee that your identity won’t be stolen, but they can definitely decrease your chances.  If you do find you have fallen victim to fraud, report it to your financial institution immediately. You can also contact the credit-reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account with a fraud alert, which asks merchants not to grant new credit without your approval.

We thank you for trusting Blais Insurance for all your insurance needs.  While we may not be able to fully protect your identity online, we can protect you in all other aspects of life.  Many consumers are unaware that identity theft protection can be purchased by a simple endorsement on their homeowner's policy at a surprisingly low cost.  Please call us at 401-725-0070 today to learn more.

Information provided from: How to Prevent Identity Theft, Identity Theft, How to Report Identity Theft