Just recently, PF Chang’s acknowledged that 33 of their restaurants had suffered a security breach over the last 8 months and that the credit card numbers as well as possibly the customers’ names and the expiration dates of the cards were compromised. This news should be shocking or surprising. Unfortunately, data breaches have become common place. Just consider the recent security breaches at Target, Michael’s, and Neiman Marcus, to name a few.
If you’re diligent about shredding your personal information so that it can’t get into the wrong hands, you’re still not safe. Consider all the recent security breaches. It’s enough to make people start to think about not using credit cards just to avoid this problem.
But even that is not a complete solution. Yahoo! Finance just announced that a Russian gang has stolen billions of Internet passwords and millions of e-mail addresses. “The records include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites” (Yahoo! Finance).
The problem is so widespread. If you want to live in the modern world, going without the Internet and credit cards to preserve your identity is very difficult. Instead, consumers need to become even more diligent in their efforts to protect themselves and their identities.
Consider taking these steps:
1. Change passwords frequently and make them difficult.
If you’re using “Sunshine” or “password123” as your password, it’s time to step things up. Choose passwords that have capital and lower case letters as well as symbols and numbers. A password like “S&36ptrM$9” will be much more difficult to crack than the passwords most people use.
Remember to also change your passwords frequently and avoid using the same password for all of your accounts.
2. Protect your data.
When you shop online, you have the option to have the company save your credit information. Do not opt to do this to protect yourself and your financial information. Yes, entering your credit information every time you place an order online is a pain, but it’s much easier than trying to resolve identity theft.
3. Order your credit report 3x year for free.
Each of us is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus. Make sure to order yours, but rather than ordering all three at once, stagger them. Order one from Experian in January, one from Equifax in May, and one from TransUnion in September. By staggering them, you can keep a close eye on your credit and notice fairly early if there is any unusual activity.
4. Check your accounts regularly.
Especially if you have automatic payments set up, make sure to still take the time to look at your account to make sure there is no suspicious activity.
5. Consider freezing your credit.
This is a radical step, but freezing your credit is the best way to protect your identity. If your credit is frozen, no one can open a new account (including you) unless the credit is thawed using a special code you’re given when you freeze your credit.
Identity theft is an unfortunate consequence of our modern world. You can’t avoid all technology to protect your financial information. These strategies will help protect you while letting you use and enjoy modern financial conveniences like credit cards and ordering online.