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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2020

10 steps to help guard against identity theft

Staying up to date on how best to prevent or lower your risk for identity theft is more important than ever in the digital world we live in. The good news is that the more you learn about how and where it can happen, the better your chances of avoiding becoming its next victim.

There’s more than one way your identity can be breached, including being exposed due to a break in the system of a company you do business with. It’s vital to remain vigilant during all transactions and to be aware of opportunities where access to your information can be gained.

What is identity theft?

It’s a crime that occurs when someone uses your information without your permission. This can include:

  • Your name and address
  • Credit card or bank account numbers
  • Your Social Security number
  • Medical insurance account numbers
  • Changing your email passwords

Ways your identity may be stolen

Identity theft can occur either in person or on-line. Becoming aware of the possibilities can help you keep a more watchful eye. Here are a few of the more common instances of how this can occur:

1. Stealing from your mailbox to access personal information
2. Sifting through your garbage to find any account or Social Security numbers
3. Tricking you into sending personal information in an email
4. Stealing your account numbers from a business or medical office
5. Stealing your wallet or purse to obtain your personal information

How to know if your identity has been stolen

The best practice is to pay timely attention to all of your accounts, bank and investment statements as well as your credit card bills. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, take immediate action.

  • Review all charges on your credit card bill for purchases you didn’t make
  • Regularly review all bank account and investment statements for any unauthorized withdrawals
  • Check your mail often. If you’ve stopped receiving a credit card bill, follow up
  • Check credit reports regularly to ensure no new accounts have been opened without your approval.

Prevention is the best action

The most effective action to take is to prevent identity theft from happening. It’s much easier to take the necessary steps to lower your risk than it is to repair the damage after the fact.

Here are 10 steps you can take to lower your risk of someone stealing your identity:

1. Freeze your credit

Freeze your accounts with the three major bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to stop any unauthorized new credit accounts. You can unfreeze your files when needed. Use credit monitoring services to be notified if someone is attempting to access your file.

2. Guard your Social Security number

Keep your Social Security number safe and be cautious about giving it out. Remember, whoever has access also has the key to all your personal data. When asked for your number, inquire why it’s needed and how the company will protect it. Shred or securely store any papers that include your number.

3. Use strong passwords

Create complex and unique passwords and avoid using commonly known information. Relying on security questions doesn’t provide as much protection, especially if you use your mother’s maiden name or otherwise easily found information.

4. Set up alerts

Sign up to be notified when deposits or withdrawals are being made to your accounts or credit cards are being used. The sooner you know that someone is using your information, the sooner you can report it and possibly stop the process.

5. Keep your eye on your mail

Stolen mail is one of the easiest ways people gain access to identities. If you have an unlocked, accessible mailbox, check it daily. If you’re going to be out of town, request to have your mail held at the Post Office. You may also want to consider switching to a Post Office box.

6. Use a shredder

Whatever lands in your trash can easily be fished out and used against you. Shred any paperwork with personal information and Social Security numbers. Securely store credit card and bank statements and shred when they’re no longer needed. Also, shred any pre-approved credit card offers you receive.

7. Use a digital wallet

Set up and use payment methods with a digital wallet app, which contains secure, digital versions of your credit and debit cards. Transactions are encrypted, which makes them safer and can be used whether you’re paying online or in a store.

8. Keep your mobile devices safe

Use a password and set up a personal identification number on your cell phone account

Keep software updated and use a two-factor identification or authentification app when possible

Turn off Bluetooth when not using

Be aware that using public Wi-Fi may allow others to see your data

Only open attachments when you know and trust the source, as they can contain malware

9. Check your credit reports regularly

The three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are allowing free credit reports weekly through April 2021 so consider taking advantage of this service. Investigate any changes to your credit score.

10. Monitor your financial and medical statements

Read your statements each month and pay attention to any charges. If you stopped receiving a statement, contact the company. Someone who has gotten your credit information can change the address so you no longer see the bills.

To guard against health care fraud, keep your health records secure and shred what is no longer needed. Don’t give out personal information over the phone if you can’t verify the source.


Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge Independent Living community

If you’re considering making the move to an Independent Living community, we invite you to visit Westminster at Lake Ridge. We offer beautiful one and two-bedroom floor plans and you’ll have the choice of a cottage or apartment.

You’ll also enjoy the first-class amenities and full monthly social calendars of programs. Combining these benefits with the camaraderie of fellow neighbors and friends all while living in a maintenance-free community is why we think you’ll find yourself right at home.

Call (703)794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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