I use an identity monitoring service because it gives me the ability to detect identity theft across multiple sources, including, but not limited to, credit fraud. In other words, it allows me to fiercely and aggressively monitor my digital identity for a very small investment. The service I use is called CSIdentity. I first learned about it when a credit union I do business with made it available to members. I subsequently researched the company (and many others) to verify their integrity and security. CSIdentity receives a gold star on both accounts.
Identity Theft Prevention Tool Box
Use these tools to protect yourself against data breach, identity theft, social media exposure and other information control issues.
Assume that any document you throw out will end up in the hands of an identity thief. Get in the habit of either chopping or locking documents and disks that contain identity (name, phone number, address, social security number, account numbers, client information, children’s information, etc.). STOP throwing sensitive documents in the trash without CHOPPING or shredding them (junk mail, bank statements, invoices, etc.).
Freezing your credit is the number one way to protect your financial identity from theft. Had I frozen my credit, neither of my cases of identity theft would have happened and I wouldn't be an identity theft speaker today. A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) that they won't allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time.
To minimize the amount of your personal information bought and sold on the data market, begin “opting out”. Opting out is the process of notifying organizations that collect your personal information to stop sharing it with other organizations.
Protect Your Computer Systems
The steps to protect your computer systems are both too extensive and too detailed to cover in a single article. Please refer to the two chapters in Privacy Means Profit for further resources on protecting your computer, laptop, network, online computing, social networking, cloud computing and wireless connections.
If you are interested in buying bulk copies of Privacy Means Profit: Prevent Identity Theft and Secure You and Your Bottom Line as premiums for your customers, gifts for your employees or take-aways for your audience, please contact us directly at 1-800-258-8076.
Inspire Your Audience to Care About Data Theft
Preventing a data breach in your organization is the easiest way to survive this rapidly growing phenomenon. Prevention is inexpensive compared to recovery. Too many companies wait until a data breach has happened (TJX, Bank of America, ChoicePoint and thousands of others) before they pay attention to protecting their customers' data, employee records and intellectual capital. Some estimates put TJX's costs (TJX is the parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls) at $500 million, excluding the hit their stock has taken and the credibility they've lost for losing 45 million customer identities.
The first step in protecting your organization is to make your employees, executives and members aware at a personal level of the risks of information theft. If they don't understand the value of their own personal data, how will they ever recognize the value of the personal data they handle every day at work? Most companies who hire me to speak do so because they want to raise the awareness within their organization about the importance of privacy. By beginning at the personal level, this gives staff a context for protecting company information.
If you are interested in bringing me in to speak, train your employees or perform a privacy audit of your personal information, please contact me directly on 800.258.8076 or by filling out our contact form.
You are entitled to 3 free copies of your credit report every year (one from each Credit Bureau) when you visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com. I recommend that you order one copy of the report every 3 months (e.g., order the Experian report in January, the Equifax report in April and the TransUnion report in September - this gives you a look at your credit over the entire year instead of all at once).
A majority of our most valuable identity documents (passports, birth and death certificates, wills, trusts, deeds, brokerage information, passwords, health records, etc.) are exposed to identity theft (and natural disasters, such as fire and floods) as they sit in unlocked filing cabinets, banking boxes in the basement, office drawers or out in the open, on our desks. The answer is to purchase a fire-resistant (and possibly flood resistant) safe that will allow for the protection of your physical identity assets. These safes come in all sizes and shapes. Some are meant for the home and some are meant for businesses.