In the past, people were concerned about protecting cash and jewelry from theft. Nowadays, with fewer people carrying around large amounts of cash, the concern is about theft of information. Identity theft affects close to 13 million people in the United States every year, and thieves that get their hands on your Social Security or checking account number can cause a lot more harm than one stealing $10 from your wallet. While the damage can be great, there are several steps you can take to keep your private information secure.
Don’t leave belongings unattended.
One of the most important steps in preventing identity theft is perhaps also the simplest: Don’t leave belongings containing sensitive information – such as a laptop, a wallet, or a smartphone – unattended, even if you’re in familiar places like work. Even if your coworkers are trustworthy, most businesses have plenty of people coming in and out. A visitor could swipe your laptop and never be seen again.
While keeping important belongings with you at all times is best, you may not want to lug everything around every time you go get a cup of coffee or stop by a coworker’s space. If you’re leaving items unattended, try keeping them out of plain sight. It’s true someone could open your drawer and take your wallet, but it’s less likely to occur than if you just leave it on your desk. Even better: If you can lock your office door or have secured storage available, take advantage of it.
Lock your laptop.
You may not be able to place your laptop in a drawer every time you step away from it, but using a laptop lock, which usually costs less than $50, lassos it to a stationary item like a desk for security. You’re probably not concerned about a family member stealing your laptop, but if your home is burglarized and your laptop is locked up tight, it discourages thieves from trying to grab it.
Use password protection.
Typing in a password when you turn on your computer is not new – have you password-protected everything possible, including smartphones, tablets, and other devices? Ensure your passwords are not easy to guess, and change them periodically. Also consider logging out or locking your computer or device when you step away, or adjusting your settings so that you must re-enter your password if it is idle for a specified period of time.
Encrypt your data.
Encryption programs translate regular text or photos into code. A file containing sensitive information can be unencrypted by entering a password, which a thief who steals your laptop or smartphone presumably won’t have. While encryption programs can be bypassed by “tech-savvy” thieves, many do not have the knowledge or desire to do so.
Delete your hard drive.
What happens if a thief is able to grab your laptop and get past your password? Is your information compromised? Not necessarily. With remote access software, you can often delete your hard drive as soon as the thief accesses the Internet with your computer. The software is also often able to trace your laptop’s location. Of course, you must install it before your computer is stolen.
Computer theft isn’t the only situation where you may erase your hard drive. If you’re disposing of or selling an old computer that holds personal information, simply pressing the delete button is often not enough to remove files. To completely erase data from your computer, you should use a wiping or erasing utility program, which overwrites the entire hard drive.
Leave unnecessary items out of your wallet.
These days, thieves who steal wallets often don’t find much cash. However, they can still find some items of value, like credit, debit, ATM, and Social Security cards. Thwart identity theft by only carrying cards you truly need, and leave the other ones in a safe place. Unless you are applying for a passport or something similar, your Social Security card doesn’t need to be in your wallet, and remember to remove anything else that may have sensitive information, like account numbers.
Keep a list of account information in a safe place.
Despite your best efforts, there is no guarantee that your belongings will never be lost or stolen. Keeping a list of your credit card, checking, and savings account numbers, along with the phone numbers of the financial institutions, will allow you to contact them quickly if something happens. Remember to keep the list in a safe place to prevent it from being stolen.
Look out for fake offers.
Age-old scams can resurface, sometimes with new angles or hooks to get people interested. What seems like a great deal, like being a “secret shopper” and getting paid with gift cards; a bargain price on a self-improvement subscription plan; or fake computer technician services to remedy a “virus-riddled” laptop are truly bad arrangements that could cost thousands. Just remember: An informed consumer is an empowered consumer. Learn the signs of frauds and scams so you won’t be surprised when a fake offer ends up in your mailbox, email, or online.
We work to protect you.
Nusenda Credit Union has multiple levels of security to ensure that your financial information stays safe and secure:
- Constant monitoring of your Nusenda Visa® credit and debit cards for suspicious activity.
- Third-party evaluations of our security systems.
- Fraud loss protection, thanks to Visa’s Zero Liability Policy.
- Fraud resolution services, including case file creation, victim statements, fraud affidavits, and more through VRS Elite Fraud Resolution Services.
As always, if you think your personal financial information has been compromised, contact us immediately at 505-889-7755 (800-347-2838 outside the Albuquerque area). And remember that Nusenda Credit Union will NEVER contact members for account numbers, credit card numbers, CVV numbers, PIN numbers, or any other private information.
Stay up to date on current scams and data breaches, and learn more about how to protect your identity and your money by visiting our Account Security webpage.
Information provided by BALANCE© and CU Insight. All rights reserved.