(NEWS CENTER) -- Protecting your name and credit is difficult in this technology world. According to Javelin Strategy and Finance, more than 13 million people fell victim to identity thieves in 2013 with some $18 billion stolen.
Sarah Halpin, Certified Financial Planner with The Danforth Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, said basic precautions include shredding financial and medical documents, protecting passwords and not opening strange email files. However, it is necessary to go beyond these basics, said Halpin.
1. Check Your Information In Professional Directories: Halpin said to beware of what sharing personal information and do not include our full name or birth date. In biographical directories, most content is public. Some websites will list detailed information on your education, career, military service and memberships online, which can increase the risk of identity theft.
2. Beware Tax ID Fraud: An identify thief can use a tax id number to get a tax refund or to get a job, said Halpin. Be aware if your tax refund dollars don't show in your account, you recieve a notice from the IRS saying you were paid by an unknown employer, or that more than one tax return was filed under your social security number. If any of these things occur, contact the IRS immediately. The IRS doesn't contact taxpayers via an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you recieve an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Be Wary of Free Wi-Fi: Never use an unsecured Wi-Fi network to make financial transactions, said Halpin. Only use secure websites that begin with "https" and display a "closed lock" symbol in the status bar. Using a public computer opens the possibility of malicious software obtaining sign-on information, account numbers and it increases the risk of falling victim to fraud. Always log out, close out browsers, and even reboot the computer to clear out additional traces of personal information.
4. Monitor Your Credit History: According to Risk Based Security, a cybersecurity firm, there were more than 1,000 data breaches in the US last year, exposing more than 500 million consumer records. Federal law entitles everyone to receive one free annual credit report copy from each of the credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. By rotating requests to each every four months, it is possible to monitpr credit changes through the year. You can order online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by phone or mail.
If you suspect that someone has had unauthorized access to your accounts, or credit card information contact your financial institution immediately. In addition, report the crime to the local police and to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT or visitingwww.ftc.gov/edtheft.
Information and further resources for Maine consumers can be found at www.maine.gov/ag/consumer
The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit 1 -800-908-4490
Visit www.identitytheftassistance.org for information on how to protect yourself and victim assistance resources.