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How To Protect Your Financial Information From Identity Theft

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? With so much of our financial information being used online, it’s vital to make sure you’re protecting your valuable data.

Almost 7% of consumers – 1 in 15 people – become victims of identity fraud each year. This can take months or even years to fix, and can be a huge burden on you and your family.

Here are three easy tips to help you guard your financial information.

1. Never Use Your Full Social Security Number Online
The biggest Cyber Security Awareness tip is to be extremely careful with your Social Security number. If scammers get access to your nine-digit number, they can access so much of your financial information.

Make sure to never send your full Social Security number via email, even if you trust the recipient. You don’t want any digital paper trail with your social security number.

Don’t forget, email is a favorite tool of modern-day scammers and having your social security number in some else’s inbox means that if they get hacked, your information could be compromised as well.

While most email providers do a good job marking spam as spam, some stuff still gets through. Not to mention, scammers are great at making fake emails look legitimate. But remember, anytime financial institutions ask for a Social Security number, credit card number, or full bank account number via email, this is a scam!

A good way to check is to look at the email address of the sender, chances are you can always detect if it isn’t from your bank or credit card. And if you aren’t sure, always contact your bank or credit card provider directly.

Also, make sure to avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet and never write your number down. Lastly, if you are asked to give the full number at a financial institution, always check who is around you before saying it out loud.

2. Don’t Overshare on Social Media
With social media continuing to grow, we all put up lots of photos and information about ourselves. While it’s great to connect with friends, family, and coworkers, don’t overshare too much.

A few things to leave off your social media profiles are your birthday and your city of birth. These are two common questions that scammers could use when hacking into your bank account and credit card account. Don’t make it any easier for them by posting the answers on social media.

Also, make sure you know every person that you accept as a friend request. If the person who is adding you doesn’t have any mutual friends and you don’t know them, skip the request.

3. Be Careful With Online Shopping
With the holidays approaching, I’m sure you will do plenty of online shopping. While you can often save time and money shopping online, make sure to verify the site you are purchasing from. Always check the URL of the site, if it doesn’t have https:// or “shttp://” in the address, it’s not a secure site and your information could get hacked.

If you are using a Wi-Fi hotspot, make sure to check the security settings to ensure nobody else can access your laptop or mobile phone. In this instance, I would recommend to just wait to make your purchase until you get home.

Also, a lot of scammers will try to funnel you a “cloned” version of real sites through email phishing scams. Instead of clicking the links they send in your email, always go to the website yourself through your secure web browser.

Remember, scammers don’t need much information to inflict harm these days. The biggest piece of advice is to not ever get out the full digits of anything via email. No matter how legitimate the website looks, always confirm the sender’s email address and contact the bank or credit card directly.

Would you like assistance with creating a Financial Plan? Simply request a call from a Bayntree financial advisor today and we can help you determine your options.

Bayntree Wealth Advisors, located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, provides comprehensive financial planning and wealth management. The Bayntree team specializes in all aspects of financial health, including retirement planning, risk management, investment advice, tax strategies, estate planning and insurance.

Bayntree does not provide specific legal or tax advice. Please consult with your tax advisor or legal professional for guidance with your individual situation.

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