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e.g. Guide to Financial Planning


Guarding Against Identity Theft

 

Take steps so criminals won’t take vital information from you.

Provided by Richard W. Greene, CLU, ChFC, IAR

 

America is enduring a data breach epidemic. As 2013 ended, the federal Bureau of Justice

 

Statistics released its 2012 Victims of Identity Theft report. Its statistics were sobering. About

 

 

one in 14 Americans aged 16 or older had been defrauded or preyed upon in the past 12

months, more than 16.6 million people.1

 

 

Just 8% of those taken advantage of had detected identity theft through their own vigilance.

 

More commonly, victims were notified by financial institutions (45%), alerts from non-financial

 

companies or agencies (21%), or notices of unpaid bills (13%). While 86% of victims cleared up

 

the resulting credit and financial problems in a day or less, 10% of victims had to struggle with

them for a month or more. 1

 

 

Consumers took significant financial hits from all this. The median direct loss from cyber thieves

 

exploiting personal information in 2012 was $1,900, and the median direct loss from a case of

 

credit card fraud was $200. While much of the monetary damage is wiped away for the typical

victim, that isn’t always the case.1

 

Tax time is prime time for identity thieves. They would love to get their hands on your return,

 

 

and they would also love to claim a phony refund using your personal information. In 2013, the

 

IRS investigated 1,492 identity theft-linked crimes – a 66% increase from 2012 and a 441%

increase from 2011.2

 

 

E-filing of tax returns is becoming increasingly popular (just make sure you use a secure Internet

 

connection). When you e-file, you aren’t putting your Social Security number, address and

 

income information through the mail. You aren’t leaving Form 1040 on your desk at home (or

 

work) while you get up and get some coffee or go out for a walk. If you just can’t bring yourself

 

to e-file, then think about sending your returns via Certified Mail. Those rough drafts of your

 

returns where you ran the numbers and checked your work? Shred them. Use a cross-cut

shredder, not just a simple straight-line shredder (if you saw Argo, you know why).

 

 

The IRS doesn’t use unsolicited emails to request information from taxpayers. If you get an

 

email claiming to be from the IRS asking for your personal or financial information, report it to

your email provider as spam.2

 

Use secure Wi-Fi. Avoid “coffee housing” your personal information away – never risk

 

 

disclosing financial information over a public Wi-Fi network. (Broadband is susceptible, too.) It

 

takes little sophistication to do this – just a little freeware.

Sure, a public Wi-Fi network at an airport or coffee house is password-protected – but if the

 

password is posted on a wall or readily disclosed, how protected is it? A favorite hacker trick is

 

to sit idly at a coffee house, library or airport and set up a Wi-Fi hotspot with a name similar to

 

the legitimate one. Inevitably, people will fall for the ruse and log on and get hacked.

 

Look for the “https” & the padlock icon when you visit a website. Not just http, https. When

 

 

you see that added “s” at the start of the website address, you are looking at a website with

 

active SSL encryption, and you want that. A padlock icon in the address bar confirms an active

 

SSL connection. For really solid security when you browse, you could opt for a VPN (virtual

 

private network) service which encrypts 100% of your browsing traffic; it may cost you $10 a

 

month or even less.3

 

Make those passwords obscure. Choose passwords that are really esoteric, preferably with

 

 

numbers as well as letters. Passwords that have a person, place and time (PatrickRussia1956)

 

can be tougher to hack.4

 

Check your credit report. Remember, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from

 

 

each of the big three agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax). You could also monitor your

 

credit score – Credit.com has a feature called Credit Report Card, which updates you on your

 

credit score and the factors influencing it, such as payments and other behaviors.1

 

Don’t talk to strangers. Broadly speaking, that is very good advice in this era of identity theft. If

 

 

you get a call or email from someone you don’t recognize – it could tell you that you’ve won a

 

prize, it could claim to be someone from the county clerk’s office, a pension fund or a public

 

utility – be skeptical. Financially, you could be doing yourself a great favor.

 

Richard W. Greene, CLU, ChFC, IAR may be reached at 520-745-5585 or dick@rwgreeneinc.com.

 

 

 

Visit our web site at www.rwgreeneinc.com

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their

 

affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is

 

no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is

 

needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax

 

or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation

 

to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are

 

not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

 

Citations.

 

 

 

1 - dailyfinance.com/2013/12/31/scariest-identity-theft-statistics/ [12/31/13]

 

2 - csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2014/0317/Tax-filing-online-Seven-tips-to-avoid-identity-theft.-video [3/17/14]

 

3 - forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/03/04/hackers-love-public-wi-fi-but-you-can-make-it-safe/ [3/4/14]

 

4 - articles.philly.com/2014-03-18/business/48301317_1_id-theft-coverage-identity-theft-adam-levin [3/18/14]

 

 

 

 

 

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Comment   |  5 years, 12 months ago from Tucson, AZ