Depending on how much you earn, the results might surprise you.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably more worried about your identity being stolen than you are about the nation facing another war or more terrorism.
“57 percent of Americans are seriously concerned about identity theft,” says a new poll by technology company UNISYS. Meanwhile, “47 percent are seriously concerned about national security in relation to war and terrorism.”
However, as it turns out, the people who earn the least are worried the most about credit card and debit card fraud.
“Americans with an annual income of $50,000 or less had the highest levels of concern about credit/debit card fraud and identity theft, with more than 60 percent being extremely or very concerned,” the Unisys poll showd.
While that might seem to be a paradox – you may think the richest have more to lose when facing theft – Gary Herman thinks it makes perfect sense.
“While the wealthy have more money to lose, they can survive the loss of one credit card for days or even weeks or months,” says the president of Consolidated Credit. “Someone who makes much less, is working hard to raise a family, and has lots of credit card debt can’t afford for one card to be out of action for even one day.”
Considering how common security breaches seem to be occurring these days, these concerns are not unfounded. However, the onus is on us – as consumers – to monitor accounts for criminal activity and to avert falling victim to identity theft and fraud.
How do we protect ourselves? Here are 5 ways:
Tip No. 1: Use cash more often than credit or debit
Using cash is always safer than using credit or debit cards, but doing so isn’t always feasible. If you must use plastic, opt for a credit card instead. Unlike debit card use, where the money is taken off your account almost immediately, credit card billing is usually delayed. And, in the event that you get billed fraudulently, the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act says you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. As for debit card charges the money comes off almost immediately, making it harder to recover.
Tip No. 2: Use secure sites while shopping online
We all like the convenience of sitting at home surfing and shopping but this convenience often comes with a higher price than we bargained for. It is important to be able to decipher secure sites from insecure ones. Secure sites starts with https:// not just http// and usually have a closed green padlock in the search bar or a closed yellow padlock displayed at the bottom of your screen. Secure websites use security technology to scramble the information you input into your computer to protect your sensitive information from being intercepted by others.
Tip No. 3: Be wary of your WIFI activities
There’s no denying that being able to connect anywhere, any place is super convenient, but the ability to do so comes with a price. The information you send while using public WiFi can be seen by anyone with the right software, and that includes any credit card information you enter. Refrain from checking your bank account on a public Wifi, fraudsters are always on the prowl. While using public WiFi, give out your personal information only if you have to and make sure you have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A VPN encrypts your messages sent via computers, devices, and other networks.
Tip No. 4: Store Social Security cards in a safe place at home
There are some instances where it’s required that you give out your Social Security number like a doctor’s office or a new job. And there are other times where just because you’re asked doesn’t mean you have to oblige. You should always ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse.
Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet without first initiating contact with the associate. Remember do not write or carry your Social Security card around. Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Store your card in a safe place at home, memorize it and do not give it to anyone. The same goes for your ATM pin, it’s called a secret pin for a reason.
Tip No. 5: Change your passwords regularly
If you’re like many consumers, you probably have the same passwords for multiple accounts. So if a hacker figures out your password, they can gain access to all your personal information and accounts. Good passwords have a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and even special characters; they can be short sentences, phrases, or commands that you use regularly. You also want to make sure that they are changed at least every 3 to 6 months. Keep a mental register of your passwords and refrain from writing them down.