In light of Target’s recent disclosure that debit and credit card information from 40 million users was stolen this holiday season, now seemed like an appropriate time to discuss how to protect yourself from identity theft. While unfortunately, you can’t vet all retailers to find out how likely your personal information is to be hacked, you can take steps to minimize the likelihood of identity theft. Our tips:
- Be Alert to Phishing
Phishing occurs when an illegitimate website mimics a real one, trying to obtain personal information. Spam or ad pop-ups are often used in phishing scams. Before entering any information of a confidential nature, make sure you’re on a familiar website with security in place (look for the https, indicating your data is encrypted).
- Manage Your Passwords
It can’t be said often enough—a strong password contains a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters mixed with numbers. Passwords should be site-specific, meaning they are unique on each site you visit. And if you use a public computer to access the Internet, make sure that you log out of any website that you visit and clear your cookies.
- Guard Against Theft
Laptops, cell phones, and tablets are prime targets for thieves. Make sure that you secure them appropriately and use a strong password on these items as well.
- Monitor Your Banking and Credit Card Transactions
Scan your banking and credit card statements for any suspicious activity. While you can wait for a paper statement, it’s also easy to log in to your account periodically and review your transactions online. Obviously, the more frequently that you’re checking these items, the less damage is likely to occur.
While we hope that you’re never a victim of identity theft, fortunately your liability is limited. Your maximum liability for credit card theft is $50. The same applies for your debit card if you report the theft within 2 days of your card being stolen. With this in mind, it’s important to be proactive to prevent identity theft but if the worst occurs, know that your financial loss will be relatively small.