Protect Your Online Identity
Police Officers and Firefighters are constantly in the public eye while protecting and serving our community. Constant exposure may lend itself to the risk of identity theft, especially during the holiday season. Your online identity, which includes but is not limited to, your bank account, Social Security number and various log-in passwords, can be stolen or compromised if you are not careful and alert. You can take preventative measures to avoid falling victim to identity theft:
- Create strong passwords – and update them frequently! Avoid using simple, common, or easy-to-guess passwords like your birth date, pet’s name, or something related to your line of work. Try to utilize upper and lower case letters, as well as symbols to keep identity thieves and scammers from figuring out your passwords.
- Keep personal and financial documents secure. This goes for both electronic and paper documents. If you store personal and financial documents on your computer, make sure that you install a firewall, utilize anti-spyware and anti-virus software to keep your internet browser up-to-date and to ensure that your wireless network is secure. If you are throwing away any paper documents with confidential or sensitive information, make sure that you shred them before they are disposed. And, if you are keeping any hard copies of the documents, make sure they are secured in a safe area.
- Be careful what you share on social media! Your social media accounts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter may have a lot more personal information available than you think. Review the information you currently have in your accounts and limit the amount of personal information you have available to the public.
- Don’t fall for email/Phishing scams! There are a large number of fraudulent emails that claim to be from trustworthy sources, like a bank or a government agency. They are designed to seem as legitimate as possible. You are often asked to click on a link and enter personal information such as account numbers or even your Social Security number. Trustworthy companies would never ask for your personal or sensitive information before first having you sign into your account behind a secure firewall.
- Monitor your credit report! You are entitled to one free credit report per year. Take advantage of this opportunity to catch any possible fraudulent activity and errors. If any information has been compromised, set up a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to put a freeze on your files. For a free credit report, you may visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
- Restrict address information! For Active and Retired Police Officers, you have the opportunity to restrict your home address information through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if requested, according to Vehicle Code Section 1808.4.
The above tips are only a handful of the ways to reduce the chances of your identity and personal information from being stolen. Always use common sense and consideration when dealing with your personal sensitive information.