Solid advice to battle identity fraud

Carrie Kerskie , Director - Identity Fraud Institute, Hodges University
Carrie Kerskie, Identity Fraud Expert

Solid advice to battle identity fraud

I had the good fortune to hear Carrie Kerskie speak last month at a meeting of the ABWA Imperial River Chapter here in Southwest Florida.  Kerskie is the Director of the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University. For biographical information, check out the press release I wrote for the event. Here are some notes I scrawled during the presentation – practical advice that will help to mitigate the risk of identity fraud happening to YOU.

Set up online access for EVERYTHING – before someone else does!

Bank accounts, credit cards, your accounts with the IRS and Social Security – set up EVERYTHING, before the bad guys have an opportunity to set it up for themselves.

Ask about security measures. And additional security measures

Call the company in question – the bank, your insurance, your email provider, whomever it is – and ask about any additional security measures that might be available. Two-factor authentication can be crucial to prevent a disaster. It may seem like a collosal PITA, but you eventually become accustomed to being required to provide two pieces of information – something you have (your phone, for instance, to receive a text) and something you know (your password). Ask how to leverage these measures. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to ask for help!

Don’t use real answers to security questions

What’s your mom’s maiden name?  What was your high school mascot? What city were you born in?  You know there are people who know these things about you besides you!  Pick a person you know to be your “answer key”, and use THEIR answers to these questions.

If you haven’t already done so, set up your Social Security Account NOW

LINK: SSA.gov

Compare your Social Security Administration account to your tax returns at least annually. This will help to ensure that no one is using YOUR social security number for their own employment purposes.

Use ONLY new-in-package, encrypted thumb drives

Sometimes, you go to a conference and they’re giving away free thumb drives. Just. Say. NO.  Use only new-in-package thumb drives, and ensure that they come with encryption. Document any evidence that you encrypted it (i.e., screen shots) to help with any potential litigation that may arise from loss or theft.

Get familiar with the “credit freeze” process

LINK: Federal Trade Commission “Credit Freeze FAQs”

Did you know that you can prevent access to your credit report, thereby throwing a road block at potential identity thieves?  Hit the link above to find out more about how this works.

Homeowner’s insurance and identity theft

Some homeowner’s policies already cover theft of credit cards or cash; however, it can be limited to anywhere between $50 and $200 dollars. Call your agent to inquire how to add an identity theft endorsement to your existing homeowners, renters, or condo owner’s policy. Find out all the facts (what is covered, what’s not) before committing.

Identity fraud protection services: not all that, no bag of chips

Link:  ID theft protection review from Consumer Reports

Don’t make assumptions about what identity theft protection services can/will do for you in the event of an incident.  You must ask yourself and the person trying to sell you the service, “When I become a victim, who does the work to fix it?”  As with identity theft insurance, you need to know what’s covered before you commit. It may turn out that all they are doing is notifying you.

Bonus advice, from me: Get a password manager

You MUST use secure, complicated passwords. It’s no longer an option to use “password123” or your dog’s name or your child’s birthdate. Cross over, children – all are welcome! Get a password manager, and let the technology remember the complicated passwords. You only need to remember one.   I use Dashlane.  Here’s my referral link. We will both get a $20 credit if you use it to purchase the premium service, which I find WELL worth it.  CLICK FOR ERIN’S DASHLANE REFERRAL LINK

Be the master of your fate

The best strategy against the possibility of identity fraud is to put preventive measures in place that YOU control.  You will never be sorry that you put information security measures in  place to protect your identity from the bad guys.