Have you ever had your wallet stolen? I have. A couple of years ago I went to Denver for my cousin’s wedding and (long story short) my purse was taken. Phone, wallet, BOOM! Gone.
It was a hassle for sure, made even more stressful since I had flown into town. Thankfully things were eventually squared away, but I wouldn’t want anything like that to happen to you.
Protecting Your Privacy and Finances
While you may not have your wallet or purse taken, there are other, more tech-savvy ways someone malicious can access your accounts and/or disrupt your life. Nowadays you have to worry about phishing, malware, and data breaches. There’s no surefire way to eliminate these issues right now, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your data to minimize the damage, should something happen.
I had the pleasure of speaking with David Jamshid, Vice President of Software Development at Coastal about ways you can secure your accounts, so you can guard your privacy and finances.
Here are five key steps you can take this week and be prepared.
Change Password Frequently
Do you still use the same passwords for the past several years? It’s time to switch things up. You also want to make sure you’re not using the same password for multiple accounts as it can make you more vulnerable when there is a data breach or hack.
Choose Strong Passwords
Sounds obvious. But based on how many people still use “123456” and “password” (over 23 million accounts!), you need to use stronger passwords. Choose and use passwords that aren’t easy to figure out. Passwords should not include dictionary words and avoid using personal information such as your kids’ names or your pets.
You should mix in both upper and lower-case characters, along with at least one number and one special character. The longer the password, the better. So use at least eight characters. Here’s the reality that many of us hit: we have so many accounts spread between work and personal life, that it’s difficult to remember them all.
One handy solution I found was using a password manager. I use LastPass, but there are several other great options. What’s wonderful about password managers is all your log-in info for different accounts is in an encrypted digital vault that you can access through a master password, PIN, or your fingerprint. They can also generate a secure password which is becoming a necessity today. Password managers are an affordable option, so please check a few of them out and see which is the best fit for you.
Lock Your Credit Report
Another suggestion David gave was freezing your credit report with all three bureaus. If an identity thief does get access to some of your information, your freeze becomes an added layer of protection. Most creditors today need to see your credit report before opening up an account in your name.
To freeze or unfreeze your accounts, you need to contact each of the credit bureaus.
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-72892
It’s a minor hassle, but an easy way to keep crooks from creating a massive headache for you down the road.
Regularly Check Your Credit Reports
Another way to protect yourself is to stay on top of your accounts by checking your credit reports regularly. You can check all three at once or stagger them every few months. You can check them through AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled to reviewing all 3 of your reports for free with no trial or membership sign-up. You can then contact the bureaus if you see anything suspicious or update any incorrect or missing information, which may improve your credit rating.
Sign Up for Fraud Alert
If something does happen, you want to be one of the first to know. So go ahead and sign up for fraud alerts on your accounts. This was helpful for me the other year because someone was making unauthorized charges on one of my cards. I was immediately alerted and the credit card company got on it ASAP.
Did you know that as a Coastal member you have an added benefit of id Ally? This service gives you access to a licensed identity theft recovery advocate to help you navigate the process and take care of the tedious work that is involved with restoring your accounts.
Protecting Yourself Online
I hope you never have to deal with identity theft, data breaches, or scammers, but if you do, I hope these tips can help you be better prepared!