Sam is an online guru. He is cognizant of the links he clicks on, and the emails he opens, and his passwords are complicated to the point of tedium. Even his Facebook profile has been tweaked to ensure the highest level of privacy. He is confident that his digital identity is under lock and key. But recently Sam got sick, visited the doctor, and filled out a routine insurance form. Now, thanks to a wonderful hacker group in China, Sam’s personal information, including his social security number, are on sale to the highest bidder. If even Sam can fall victim to online identity theft, do we live in a world where anyone’s online identity can ever really be safe?
The hackers involved in the hospital patient information heist described above, were able to bypass Community Health Systems’ security multiple times between April and June. They then copied names, phone numbers, addresses and social security numbers from 4.5 million patients without anyone noticing until late July.
The best line of defense for protecting your online identity is always preventative. Be like Sam, follow the rules to create safe passwords, be safe on social networking sites, and be aware of what you install on your computer. All these things are great, but they do not ensure complete security.
What do you do when you’ve taken all the precautions you could and hackers, as clever as they are, still get access to your identity? Protecting yourself should not stop at preventative measures; you should have a plan in place just in case someone does make it through your defenses.
Partner with Your Bank
Chances are, your bank offers some sort of credit monitoring service, and if not they typically have a partnership with a company that does. Partnering with your bank to monitor your credit limits the number of institutions that have access to your personal information as well as providing you with vital information that can limit the damage someone else can do with your identity.
Many banks also offer you the option to alert you via text or email anytime a purchase is made over a certain amount. This is nice, since the purchase will not be immediately blocked and you can set the restrictions at a place where you feel comfortable. The quicker you and your bank can catch fraud the less time and money is spent on everyone’s part.
Track Transactions From One Location
There are a slew of trusted services that can enhance your always-on credit monitoring profile. Options like Mint, BillGuard, or You Need A Budget interfaces with your banks and tracks your transactions. These services give you tools to sort and filter your purchases from all your accounts and help you notice any unwarranted charges or withdrawals. This allows you to view all your finances at a glance and notice issues even before your bank or credit card company does. These tools can help even the most financial novice manage their accounts.
The beauty of these tips, is that they have very low costs associated with them. As long as you are willing to pay attention and be aware of where your money is going, it arms you with enough information to address concerns right away. These are steps you can proactively take, to ensure that you are ready if or when that day comes where you find yourself in Sam’s shoes.