A reader: Last week there was a data breach reported where Anthem was hacked. Now, this week I received a phony Anthem email. Yes, I am currently an Anthem customer. And then I just heard about the banks all over the world that had money stolen. It seems like we hear about breaches all the time now. What do I do? How do I know my private info is safe? Is there anything I can do to make sure I don’t become a victim of fraud or identity theft?
Action Line: Your angst is shared by many businesses and consumers alike. Unfortunately, nobody is immune. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Anthem’s breach is affecting more than 80 million customers. The good thing is that you are aware of the breach and you knew the email was phony. Awareness is the best defense. Here are tips all consumers and businesses can use to help protect yourselves:
Annualcreditreport.com. Go to this website once a year and get a copy of your free credit report. Read it to make sure that all information is yours and that it is accurate.
Keep your personal information secure both offline and online.
Shred documents that contain any personal information when you no longer need them. Don’t just throw them in the trash. This can include insurance forms, credit card offers, checks, bank statements, etc.
Limit what you carry. When you leave your home only take the credit or debit cards you intend to use. Keep copies of the front and back of your cards in a safe place in case you need to report them lost or stolen.
Leave your Social Security card at home in a safe place.
Destroy the label on prescription bottles before you throw them away.
When doing business online, make sure that you keep passwords secure.
Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
Use security questions in addition to log ins when online.
Be careful not to post too much personal information on social media.
Be careful with your email. Do not click on anything or open any files that come unsolicited or you do not know what they are.
Make sure you use antivirus software and keep it current.
WiFi is not always secure. Public WiFi should not be used for banking, bill paying and any other transaction that requires personal information.
Watch your bank statements carefully, even as often as every day.
If a company has a data breach, you will get a formal notification that your information has been compromised.
You can put a fraud alert or credit freeze on your information with the three major credit reporting agencies.
Above all, never give your private information to anyone unless you are sure you already have a business relationship established with that party. If you are thinking of doing business with someone new, contact your BBB by phone or online to check on the background of the company before you do business with them. Be wary: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.