The recent security breach at credit rating service Equifax brings home the reminder that each of us must be ever-vigilant in protecting our private information.1 It can be easy to become lackadaisical. We expect companies with which we conduct financial transactions to keep our data secure.
Unfortunately, hackers seem to be advancing their skills at a faster rate than large corporations can keep up. Moreover, the tools available to consumers to help protect their data – including credit monitoring, identity monitoring, identity restoration and identity theft insurance – are more reactive than proactive.2
One of the newer recommendations, however, is to freeze your credit report at each of the three national credit agencies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This action stops a credit agency from releasing your information to a third-party request without your permission, eliminating the prospect of someone using your information to open an account without your knowledge.3
While some transactions may leave us at the mercy of third-party security systems, we can still be cautious about how we seek information and who we obtain it from. When it comes to your retirement savings and insurance, you should work with financial professionals you trust. They should be thoroughly vetted for credentials and experience. Also, don’t feel compelled to give out personal financial information at your first meet and greet.
Unfortunately, one demographic that seems to be vulnerable to fraudsters is the elderly. One report estimated that up to $36.5 billion is scammed each year from older Americans.4
Some of the financial scams that target the elderly include fraudulent calls requesting bank or investment account information, mail or email solicitations that appear to be bills for a product or service that wasn’t provided, or overcharging for a service act that was provided. Older adults who are forgetful or unfamiliar with the ways services are charged today may assume they should give out the information or money requested – not realizing that the fault lies with the perpetrator.5 It’s generally a good idea to have a trusted family member or friend review the request before responding.
Above all, remain vigilant when someone asks for money or personal information.