A release from Stoneham Safety Officer Joseph Ponzo:
In the past years, I have written a couple articles about different fraudulent techniques that criminals use to extort innocent people; however, recently, I have noticed that ID theft and fraud have been picking up, so I have decided to research some tips that might help prevent a person from becoming a victim. Many of us have heard about the ongoing problem with this ever increasing technology era regarding the simplicity of someone getting another person’s personal information for illegal gain. Many of us feel like it could never happen to us or that the odds are very slim that this could happen to us, but the truth is, it could very easily happen to anyone at any time.
Always protect your Social Security number! This nine digit number, frequently, is all one needs to provide a criminal with the information they need to defraud. Never carry your social security card or numbers with you in your purse and wallet. Always store this number in a locked safe. This is so important, that the Registry of Motor Vehicles changed their policy from having Social Security numbers on all Massachusetts licenses to eliminating and replacing them with an “S” state assigned number altogether.
Always ignore unsolicited requests for personal information! People do this in several ways such as emails, via mail, phone, texts etc. Each time they try to solicit this information it looks more and more legitimate. If something doesn’t sound or look correct, trust your instinct. Hang up your phone or delete the email! When you are reading your email, never open a link that looks suspicious. Criminals try and lure people into clicking on these links, which are commonly referred to as Phishing! Phishing is one of the most common ways a criminal will try and access your personal information. Many banks, such as Envision Bank, will never call them asking for their account number, a username, password, or PIN. I can’t speak for other financial institutions, but I would highly suggest if you do get a request like this you first directly call your bank to see if they have a policy of phoning for this type of institution. According to Envision Bank, “No financial institution would do this.”
Many of us use computers every day. With public Wi-Fi, these computers are even more vulnerable to attacks. Make sure your firewall and sharing settings are at their most secure settings. You could purchase your own secure private router to use with your computer rather than the free public Wi-Fi which of course is more expensive, but much more secure. The more complex your password, the harder it is for cyber criminals to access your computer. If possible, try and change your password often and make sure they are stored on a password protected application. I use one called “the vault”, which can be downloaded for free on many types of cell phones.
Always review your credit report regularly! There are also many apps that can be downloaded to help you track your credit report monthly. There are also companies that advertise free credit report check and you can also check. You are also entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year!
With these few tips in mind, hopefully, one could protect their personal identity forever!
Remember Safety First!
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