Keeping your finances in order means proper organization, budgeting, and ignoring those frivolous purchases we sometimes feel like we really need. However, the one financial threat we can never foresee is the dastardly deeds of terrible identity thieves. These days, it’s rare to not know someone that’s been affected by this crime. In fact, in 2015 it was determined that an estimated 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft the year prior. Keep your information safe by remaining aware and make sure you don’t fall victim to one of the following scams.
- Tax Returns
When tax season comes around, most of us are worried about making mistakes on our tax return, or finding out that we in fact owe the government a whole lot more than we ever expected. However, one of the most worrying things we should be worried about during this time is the threat of a con artist filing a tax return under our names. False returns filed before your actual, real filing can mean identity thieves swindle money right out from under the IRS’s nose. In these cases, it will be a long time before you ever receive the return you’re due.
- Social Media Outlets
Social media is king, and most of us have one if not many accounts with various social platforms, be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or even GooglePlus. Many of these channels prompt users for a bevy of personal information, from full names to email addresses, phone numbers to street addresses. While you may think providing this information is a good way to expand your social circle and keep up with the people you love, providing too much information can be the perfect storm for an identity theft. Try not to include your full legal name, never input addresses, and be aware of what you’re posting on all of your profiles.
- Credit Card Statements
Many of us are now using automated payments to make sure we never miss a bill, but this can lead to inattention to statements. When was the last time you sat down and went through your credit card statement line by line? If you can’t remember an instance in the recent past, it’s time to start implementing this practice on a monthly basis. Identity thieves are intelligent, and may be adding smaller charges to your bill that you may not notice over time. This is why it’s important to remain diligent with your statement review practices. Anytime you see something suspicious, you can report it to your trusted credit card company. The longer this goes on, the more likely this thief is to get away with money that you might not get back.
- Similar Passwords
With all of these automated payments come a bevy of online accounts that allow us to do all the nitty gritty finance chores right from the comfort of our own home with a computer screen or iPhone. With said accounts comes safeguards, usually done through personal passwords. I don’t know about you, but coming up with and keeping track of 20 different types of passwords is akin to torture, but unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil. If you need help keeping track of your passwords, use a password protected (I know, I know, but isn’t that counterproductive?) file on your computer. This way, you only need to remember one password. Type it in, look up your necessary password, and call it a day—no failed attempts and getting locked out of your accounts anymore.
- Disposing of Personal Information
We live in a digital age so it is rare to have paper documentation sitting around, but it does still exist. Anything you have that details personal information on it should always be kept in a safe and disposed of properly when the time comes. Invest in a small shredder, never throw away old credit cards without cutting them out, and make sure you keep your trash off the street until pickup day.
- Rental Scams
Unfortunately, identity theft is becoming more common in the rental market. If you haven’t purchased a home in favor of renting, you’ve likely run into some competition. With high competition, desperate people have been more than willing to throw their social security numbers at those they assume to be legitimate landlords, but many times, would-be tenants are left in the dust as the devious scam artist runs off with their SSN. Avoid this by always using a screening service. Companies like Transunion Smartmove keep your information protected while providing the needed stats to the landlord who has requested them—it keeps everyone safe and happy, and more importantly, keeps your information from winding up in the wrong hands.
Protect your sensitive information and watch out for these common scams to ensure you and your family remain safe and protected.