Be the Only You

“Progress” can often be a two steps forward and one step backward proposition. The technological advances of the last two decades are a good case in point. We are so much more efficient and productive (albeit more distracted!) and, in many ways, connected. The access we have to information boggles my mind compared to what it was a mere 15 years ago.

This progress, however, has come at a cost. For one, our lives are not as private as they used to be. In some cases, it’s the result of information or images that wind up in places we didn’t expect (the most egregious example being “racey” photos). In other cases, identities are stolen and manipulated by shady characters. In this latter case, others can literally pretending to be you. This is real and no laughing matter.

Do you and your family know how to protect yourselves?

Identity theft is when an imposter uses your personal information without your permission. It’s a crime and can cause untold problems for the victim. Generally speaking, it’s caused by lost or stolen credit cards, careless disposal of investment/banking statements, providing personal information (Social Security Number and PINs) where you shouldn’t, and various viral and malware attacks. The perpetrator may open credit cards and accounts in your name, forge your signature, and even obtain a driver’s license in your name.

There is an ever-growing list of ways to avoid identity theft. Some of the key ones are:

  • Shredding your financial documents after their use
  • Keeping PINs (for debit cards) and passwords in a safe, private place and changing your passwords regularly
  • NEVER sharing your banking information, passwords, or PINs with anyone (an especially good reminder for young people, who are often used to  “sharing ” everything, to the point of too much!)
  • Signing credit cards immediately and destroying outdated ones promptly
  • Not keeping your Social Security Card in your wallet or purse
  • Not disclosing your Social Security Number unless it is absolutely required
  • Calling your financial institutions and credit card providers immediately if your wallet or purse is stolen
  • Never taking phone solicitations that seek your Social Security Number and never emailing your Social Security Number or PINs to anyone.
  • Only opening email attachments when you are certain as to their safety
  • Treating your personal information as personal and private!
  • Being extremely wary of phone solicitations. If offers sound too good to be true or the sales party is aggressive, steer clear! Personally, I just avoid solicitors altogether. Period.
  • Report suspicious behavior immediately
  • Use the best anti-virus and anti-malware software for your computers

Finally, there will be situations when you simply don’t know if it’s a safe bet. Here, you should consult with trusted people in the know before releasing any information that is private. Always err on the conservative.              

How careful are you with your personal, financial, and computer information? Have you discussed this with the young adults in your life—your children, students, or young adults you mentor? Share your tips and stories with us by commenting below; we’d love to hear from you!

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