Personal security and identity theft are serious concerns. We don’t always want to think about it, but the more we use online services and make non-cash purchases, the more we are exposed.
I recently had a security issue come up myself. A service I used for individual property websites had its database raided. I received a letter of warning about this, and sure enough, someone tried to use my business credit card. Thankfully, Wells Fargo caught it, because the perpetrator didn’t do a very good job matching all the information on the card. They called me, shut down the card immediately, and Fedex’d a new card to me in two days. I was lucky. I check my accounts every day—and had done so that morning—but would not have caught the bogus charge until the next morning.
I interviewed a high-ranking security specialist who said the charge in question (to the March of Dimes) was a “smart” first try so that the thief could get the card verified. If that charge had gone through, they would have been off on a real shopping spree with my card.
There are some basic things you can do that will cover a number of threats at once:
- Consistently check your accounts to make sure there are no fishy charges.
- Resist the temptation to have web sites “remember” your card for convenience.
- When shopping online, use a secure service like PayPal or another service that offers an additional layer of protection. Once you establish an account with such a company, online purchasing is usually easier than with a credit card. If you wish to use a credit card, many banks offer a second level of security that requires a direct verification from you before the purchase can be completed. More information at www.visa.com/security.
- Protect your credit information. You can “lock down” your credit using companies like Debix,Lifelock and TrustedID. The basic concept is that your credit is locked with the big three credit companies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Your credit information then becomes unavailable to anyone trying to steal your identity in order to open a credit account or make a major purchase. You get a call if someone tries to open an account in your name.
- Debix (the “Identity Protection Network”) specifically aims to reduce identity theft where children are concerned. Visit their site for more info.