Some ways to keep your identity safe
Always shred financial statements before throwing them away to thwart 'bin raiders'
THERE is an unmistakable trend towards the creation of digital identities for older web users. From how we socialise with our friends, to booking holidays, to paying for goods and services, technology is the common denominator.
Across the US, the fastest area of growth for Facebook users is in the over-60s age grouping.
New and more user-friendly technology is making online services more and more accessible.
In financial services, there is also a determined push by banks and the State to have more of us transact online.
This is also an area where a lot more educational investment could be developed and provided to assist those not familiar with new technology to become so , according to Frank Conway of the Irish Financial Review.
Electronic banking, transactions online and other services that are highly dependent on accessing your personal information also create opportunities for others to do the same, so it is imperative that you know how to be better prepared to protect yourself.
Mr Conway has suggested some general guidelines to consider:
Q SHRED SENSITIVE INFORMATION
Shred financial statements, offers of loans and credit cards, catalogue account details or anything else that could be used to impersonate you, before binning them. Thieves sometimes go through rubbish to see if there is anything useful – a practice known as bin raiding.
Q CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS CAREFULLY
Go through your credit card and bank statements every month. In the rare event that someone has gained unauthorised access to your account, make sure you contact your bank and inform them of your suspicion. Unexpected entries in bank statements can be the first indication that somebody could be stealing your money.
Q LEARN TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR PERSONAL CREDIT REPORT
Your credit report is a record of your financial transactions with banks and credit unions. So, if you have a loan such as a credit union one, a personal loan with a bank or a car finance loan, these are all recorded on your personal credit report.
Additionally, monthly payment amounts, payment dates and payment history are also recorded.
It is a financial picture of you. It is also an excellent resource to protect against errors and detect fraud.
You can check out your own personal credit report by contacting the Irish Credit Bureau at www.icb.ie and arranging to get a free copy of the report they have on you.
Q LIMIT YOUR SOCIAL NETWORKING
It's tempting to include basic information such as your full name and date of birth in your profile, then add interesting details such as your pets' or children's names and nicknames.
Don't – these are the kind of details that you probably use for passwords and PINs, so leave them out. Your 'cyber-friends' might be fraudsters looking for enough data to steal your ID.
Q DON'T RISK IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Don't carry your passport, driving licence or even credit cards unless you know you'll need them, and never write down your PINs and passwords. If your bag or wallet is stolen, you could be handing the thieves your identity as well as your cash.
Q REPORT THEFTS
Always tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer a theft. That way, your loss is on the record and organisations that may be approached by the thieves will be forewarned.
Q KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR POST
If mail goes missing, inform the post office immediately – someone may be intercepting it, especially if you live in a building with a communal hall where mail is delivered.
Be especially careful when you move house, and use An Post to forward your post to your new address for at least a year.
Q REGISTER TO VOTE AT YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS
Lenders use the electoral roll to check that you live where you say you do. If you're not registered, a criminal could register you at another address.
When you move home, always de-register at your old address and re-register at the new one.
That way, the people who move into your previous home can't offer apparent proof that they are you.
Q DON'T RESPOND TO COLD CALLS AND EMAILS
Never reply to emails and cold-callers asking for details such as PINs, passwords and account numbers – and don't fill in your details on any unfamiliar e-mail or website.
Telephone the organisation that is allegedly behind the approach, using the number in the phone book or in previous correspondence – and warn them what is happening.
Q USE ATMS SELECTIVELY
Use ATMs that are well lit and where you feel safe. Also, when you do input your PIN, cover the keys and ensure nobody is peering over your shoulder.