By Tylon Rankin and Ann House, AFC, Personal Money Management Center

Gone are the days of picking locks and stealing cash/jewels/stocks from secret safes behind the picture on the wall. A new and efficient money bully has emerged with the advent of the internet – cyber theft. From the comfort of home, a thief can sit in front of a computer and can obtain access to vital personal and financial information with a little trickery and savvy hacking tricks. Once your personal information is stolen – your life is exposed to the treacherous world of fraud.

I am sure everyone has heard about the Equifax breach of 143 million credit files. Since social security numbers were compromised in this data breach, this is the biggest data breach ever. Generally, most data breaches do not include entire social security numbers. This one did. Criminals can now wait months and years to try and steal someone’s identity. The number compromised is beyond comprehension. You are talking about half the US population. This means most of us are included in this data breach. Everyone will now have to take steps to watch their identity.

Here are four simple ideas to help protect yourself from this new age cyber-onslaught of ID theft-fraud.

  1. Keep your personal information to a minimum on social media and be picky to whom you give access. Also, try not to save your information in your internet browsers. The auto save functions may be convenient for you – but they are a honey pot for cyber thieves. Try using a notebook or an offline key storage app to store your username’s and passwords.
  2. Avoid phishing emails and sites – this is probably the quickest way for your information to be stolen. The best policy here is to not trust anything that requires you to input secure information. Check the web address by copy and pasting links into another web browser, avoid websites that have a .co, and checking the security (VeriSign) of the website, usually a little lock on the leftmost area of the URL input box.
  3. At this time, don’t be in a hurry to sign up for “security” plans or put a freeze on your credit. We need to wait to see what steps the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises.
  4. Check your credit report often. There are multiple free websites that let you monitor your credit for free (credit If there are any discrepancies, contact the credit agency and clear them up fast.

This is the reality we live in today. Protect yourself. Be suspicious with everything that requests information. Check your downloads often for malware. Have unique passwords/usernames for every account. Always report any cybercrime to law enforcement. Be cautious, be educated, and be safe. Know that the Personal Money Management Center is here to help you navigate the complications of personal finances. Call us, drop in or request an appointment to speak with one of our accredited financial counselors.

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