Protect Your Finances from Identity Theft; Online and Off

Business Tips That Will Help Your Company Thrive In Late 2015 and Beyond-Chispa MagazineIdentity theft is a growing problem and it’s a criminal activity.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud can refer to any crime in which an individual wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, usually for economic gain. Are you concerned about your personal information being used to make purchases, file taxes, or open accounts?

A recent poll conducted by Morgan Stanley found seven out of ten (72 percent) high-net-worth investors (those with investible assets of $100,000 or more) say identity theft is the issue they are most concerned about and the issue they feel they are most likely to be impacted by (51 percent)—even ranking ahead of terrorism and a major illness. Most (81 percent) say that, with changing technology, it is difficult to know how best to protect themselves from identity theft.

Your personal information is valuable. Here are some tips on what to do—online and offline—in order to protect yourself, your family, and your financial legacy from identity theft.

Online

  • Have password smarts. Don’t use the same password for your social media accounts that you use to login for online banking. Make sure your passwords are unique and include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols—and change them regularly. Don’t share your username or passwords with others.
  • Be aware of scams. Online fraudsters may ask you for your credit card number, social security number or other personal information. Never provide this information over the Internet or telephone unless you initiate the communication. If they reach out to you, be extremely cautious. Instead of responding, contact the company through their website or phone number.
  • Secure your computer. Installing antivirus software and performing security updates are both helpful ways to prevent hackers from stealing personal information.

Offline

  • Monitor your accounts. Since a fraudulent charge can happen at any time, make sure to review each purchased item and reconcile your bank account and credit card statements monthly. If you find any discrepancies, notify your financial institution immediately and report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank or credit card company and the police as soon as you detect them.
  • Protect your PIN numbers. Similar to your online password, make sure the PIN number to your debit or credit cards is not your birth date, Social Security number or phone number.
  • Check your credit history. Checking your credit score frequently may help you detect fraudulent behavior that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Scammers will continue to create new schemes, but by being cautious each day and acting quickly if your personal information has been compromised you can help protect your identity and finances.

The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice.FA will not transact business in states where she is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.
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Kristen Fricks-Roman

Kristen Fricks-Roman

Kristen.Fricks-Roman@MorganStanley.com
Kristen Fricks-Roman CFP®, CRPS®, is a senior vice president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Atlanta.