April: Protect your Identity

Don’t Be Fooled - Protect Your Identity

Some tricks are kinda funny (like making a fake sundae out of mashed potatoes), but identity theft is no laughing matter. Around tax time, there’s an added incentive to scammers, too - with enough personal information, they can redirect your refund check. (Sadly, there are no outstanding scams attempting to *pay* your tax bill. Sorry).This month we’ll review some precautions you can take to avoid being fooled by scammers this April (and, you know, during other months, too). The good folks at Educause have done the heavy lifting for us -- below you’ll find their sage advice for protecting yourself from identify theft. It may look familiar (we’ve mentioned some of this before), but good tips bear repeating.

  • Read your credit card, bank, and pay statements carefully each month. Look for unusual or unexpected transactions. Review recurring bill charges.
  • Review your health insurance plan statements and claims. Look for unusual or unexpected transactions.
  • Shred it! Shred any documents with personal, financial, or medical information before you throw them away.
  • Take advantage of free annual credit reports. In the US, the three major credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report once a year upon request.
  • If a request for your personal info doesn’t feel right, don’t feel obligated to respond! Legitimate companies won’t ask for personal information such as your social security number, password, or account number in a pop-up ad, e-mail, text, or unsolicited phone call.
  • Limit the personal information you share on social media. Also, check your privacy settings every time you update an application or operating system (or at least every few months).
  • Put a password on it. Protect your online accounts and mobile devices with strong, unique passwords or passphrases.
  • Limit use of public Wi-Fi. Be careful when using free Wi-Fi, which may not be secure. Consider waiting to access online banking information or other sensitive accounts until you are at home.
  • Secure your devices. Encrypt your hard drive and ensure that your systems, apps, antivirus software, and plug-ins are up-to-date.

Man with thought bubble that says: As a young child, my Mother told me I could be anyone I wanted to be. Well it turns out, the police call this 'identity theft.'

And if you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft (whoops), watch this short video:

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