Q. We continue to hear of data breach issues. I want to manage my privacy and financial security in 2019. What suggestions may BBB offer?
A. The start of a New Year brings the opportunity for a fresh start and new ways of doing things. It’s also the perfect time to resolve to get a firm handle on your personal and financial information. Better Business Bureau serving Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia offers some simple tips to help consumers protect themselves from fraud in the New Year.
We complement you on taking proactive steps to protect yourself. There is no way to shield yourself completely from fraud, but you can certainly take steps to reduce your risk.
BBB recommends consumers take these ten steps to be more secure in 2019:
1. Check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it closely for errors and report any inconsistencies you see. Checking your credit report on a regular basis helps you catch signs of identity theft early.
2. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry by visiting donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. This should reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive at home. You can also register your cellphone number on this list. When you receive telemarketing calls, use the settings on the phone and block future calls from this number.
3. If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of unsolicited offers you receive through the mail, visit dmachoice.org.
4. Dispose of older bank and credit card statements, expired credit cards and unwanted credit card solicitations securely by shredding them with a cross-cut paper shredder. The BBB spring “Protect your ID Day” paper shred day event will be April 26 & 27. Visit www.bbb.org/Chattanooga for additional details.
5. When using public Wi-Fi connections, don’t make any purchases, access your online banking or share any sensitive personal information. Public means public, and fraudsters are known to frequent Wi-Fi hotspots and set up hotspots of their own! It’s important to always verify a network before accessing it.
6. If you receive an unusual offer or solicitation, research the company or charity for free with Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
7. Never respond to phone calls or emails asking to “verify” your personal information. Your bank, credit card provider, the IRS – none of these organizations will contact you asking for sensitive information. They already have it on file.
8. Secure or lock sensitive personal documents around your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work performed in your home.
9. Don’t store credit card numbers or other financial information on your smartphone or tablet. Add a passcode lock (or security password) on your smartphone or tablet and set unattended devices to lock after a certain amount of time.
10. At the New Year, change your email and social media passwords and strengthen your security by creating hard to crack passwords and employing two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Good luck in the New Year; consumers who follow these simple steps will be doing a lot to keep themselves safe and secure in the coming year. Happy New Year from the BBB.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga