My guess is that travel nurses don’t worry about identity theft any more than anyone else … but then, we all worry about it a little bit, don’t we? Plus, if you travel a lot, you probably use online banking, online shopping and online networking. It makes life easier, but I guess that opens us up to concerns about online fraud.
Last week I received a handy brochure from the Federal Trade Commission (my close personal friends!) about how to protect yourself from identity theft. Here’s just a few of their best tips:
- Don’t just click on a link in an unsolicited email, especially one that is asking you for personal information. Sophisticated fraudsters can masquerade as real sites, so it’s best to type in the web address yourself.
- Use firewalls, anti spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your laptop or home computer and keep them up-to-date.
- Don’t give out personal information over the internet (or on the phone or through the mail) unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never give out information such as your birthday, mother’s maiden name or favorite pet’s name. Besides being frequently used as passwords, this data is often the “secret question” that sites use to confirm your identity. Websites should only require you to provide your name, email and billing information for a purchase.
And the FTC reminds us, digital scams aren’t the only way that an identity can be stolen. The “analog” strategies of purse-snatching, dumpster diving (where thieves rummage through trash bins looking for critical personal info), and plain-old robbery are still popular. So remember:
- Don’t just toss your financial documents and personal documents (including credit card offers) in the trash, shred them first.
- Don’t carry anything with your social security number on it in your wallet or purse.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates or are having work done in your house.
Many financial institutions have become more diligent about alerting customers to suspicious activities on their accounts, but they don’t catch everything. So be sure to check your bills and bank statements carefully for any unexpected activity. (I know, it’s terrible, but I’ve been known to pay without checking first.)
If you suspect suspicious activity, close the account or cancel your credit card and place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports.
Did you know that all three of the major credit reporting agencies (the creators of those 3-digit ratings that can make you or break you) are required by law to give you a once-a-year free credit report if you ask for it? Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for more info.
Oh, and if something icky does happen, report the id theft your local police and to the FTC (www.ftc.gov/idtheft). They really do want to know!