Or had someone open an account in your name without your knowledge? As a professional, your identity is one of the most important assets you have. And with more than 9 million victims of identity theft happening annually, identity theft protection is becoming very important for affluent professionals.
So, how do you go about protecting your identity? Here are some tips:
1. Make sure nobody is standing right behind you when you're using an ATM machine. Keep your hands over your touchpad to protect your passcode and your body in front of the screen. Cell phone cameras are everywhere and someone my try to photograph your card info.
2. Pay your bills online using only a secure site if that service is available.
3. Don't give out your credit card number on the Internet unless it is encrypted on a secure site.
4. Take a look at your credit reports from the top three credit reporting companies at least once a year. Review it to ensure that your identity is not being used to establish lines of credit you did not personally authorize. All three major reporting companies are now required to provide a free credit report to consumers each year.
5. Remove your name from direct mail lists for credit card offers. Doing this will opt you out of mailings for 5 years. You may also permanently opt out. If you take that option, you will be mailed a Notice of Election to Opt Out form to complete and send back. You may contact them at:
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
6. Make sure that no one is listening if you have to give out personal or financial information over a telephone in a public place.
7. Examine all of your bank and credit card statements each month for mistakes or unfamiliar charges that might be the sign of an identity thief at work.
8. Cancel all credit cards that you have not used in the last six months. Open credit is a prime target if an identity thief spies it in your credit report. Keeping open unused credit lines isn't as favorable to your credit score as having high limits and low balances on lines that you use.
9. Shred all preapproved credit card offers, utility bills, financial statements, invoices, etc. before throwing them away.
10. Use direct deposit whenever you can instead of checks. Checks can get lost and private information about you can be gleaned from them.
11. Keep track of when you normally receive statements and bills in the mail. If one is late, inquire.
12. Keep important documents and financial records in a locked safe or filing cabinet at home.
13. Never give private information online or over the phone to someone who calls you asking for updates or confirmations regarding purported accounts you may have. Contact the institution directly if you have any questions.
14. Attempt to memorize your passwords. Storing them can be disastrous. A list of them can fall into the wrong hands.
15. Treat your Social Security number as a confidential piece of information. Keep your card locked up at home, don't carry it around with you.
16. Use good security on your home computer and networks. If you dispose of a computer, remove the hard drive completely.
It is a good idea to explore the use of an identity theft protection service. These services will provide fraud monitoring for credit cards, public records, social security, loans, etc. They will also provide a copy of your credit report from all three of the major credit reporting agencies each year as well as mail list removal in some cases. The limits of insurance or guarantee coverage will often total up to $1 million to cover you for losses that may be incurred due to your identity being stolen and used to incur debt and expenses. Three good services to consider are Trusted ID, LifeLock and Identity Guard. Just go online to get more information about these services and decide if one is right for you.
In the information age, your identity will become increasingly important in the marketing and promotion of your services. With more exposure on the internet, protecting that identity from unauthorized use will become critical. Take steps now to secure the safety of your identity.
And if you feel that you are far too beholden to your creditors, maybe it's time to do something about it. Christopher Music has helped many professionals gain control over their finances and achieve financial freedom -- or at least move steadily in that direction. For more information on how you too can loosen your creditors' grip on your pocketbook, visit Christopher's website at http://www.wealthadvisoryassociates.com.
Wealth Advisory Associates, LLC is a Florida Registered Investment Advisory Firm and only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or notice filed, or excluded or exempted from registration requirements.
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