“Until It Happens To You”

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By Jeremy Office Special to The Pineapple As humans we sometimes disregard inherent dangers and consequences. We become nonchalant to the reality that it could happen to you. Much like how we sometimes ignore the check engine light and are surprised when we break down on the highway, or when we ignore our health symptoms and go to the doctor only when the pain is unbearable, people give little concern to identity theft and fraud until they are a victim. Identity theft has become a major growing problem worldwide. Identity theft and identity fraud are used to refer to all types of crime in which someone improperly obtains and uses another person’s personal data that involves engaging in fraudulent or deceptive actions, usually for economic gain. Two forms of identity theft are financial and criminal impersonation. An example of financial identity theft is when thieves obtain your personal information and begin to open up credit cards. They will make fraudulent charges and then leave you the bill, which can adversely affect your credit. Criminal impersonation is when thieves obtain your identification and then commits a crime and presents themselves to authorities using your name which could lead to a criminal record or warrants for your arrest. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more last year than all other property crimes measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey. While identity theft cost Americans $24.7 billion in 2012, losses for household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and property theft totaled just $14 billion. The average financial loss per identity theft incident is $4,930. Think about it. You have car insurance for your car, health insurance if you get sick, but what are you doing to protect yourself from identity theft? There are many ways that you could fall victim to identity theft. From old school ways as thieves “dumpster dive” and go through your trash looking for personal information they could use, to highly sophisticated computer hacking. Some of the more prevalent forms are still “dumpster diving,” but also “shoulder surfing.” Shoulder surfing is when criminals watch you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit card number over the telephone. Thieves are now using skimmers implanted into ATMS, gas stations, and any other place you swipe a card. Craft store Michaels reported up to 3 million credit cards exposed in a data breach as well as Target unveiling a massive data breach of 110 million during last holiday season. Lately, there has been an increased use of smartphones as a payment method, which is done through near field communication which leaves you vulnerable to “eavesdropping.” Eavesdropping is when a thief intercepts your payment transmission and gathers your credit card information. To lessen your likelihood of becoming a victim, we encourage you to be cognizant of identity theft. With the awareness of the threat, you are more likely to take preventative measures. Some of the actions we suggest are as follows: 1. Never carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport with you outside the house. 2. Be mindful of what you throw away. Shred all documents with personal information. 3. Be sure your banks, attorney’s office, doctor’s office, and employer etc. have processes in place to keep your data safe. 4. Use a 256-bit Secure Socket Layer to scramble your data to prevent access to unauthorized users. (The Maclendon Vault Provides this security to our members) 5. Sign up for credit reports to monitor any changes in credit scores. 6. Be sure that your computer is updated with anti-spyware and key loggers. 7. Regularly change passwords and PIN numbers. 8. Use an RFID blocking sleeve in your wallet to prevent unauthorized scans If you happen to find yourself to be a victim of identity theft please contact local authorities. It would also be prudent to notify all of your banks and implement a fraud alert. In an effort to combat identity theft of our member’s information and help our community do the same, Maclendon Wealth Management is hosting a free shred event at our offices May 8th from 4-6pm. Jeremy Office, Ph.D, CFP, CIMA, MBA is Principal at Maclendon Wealth Management in Delray Beach and specializes in portfolio construction, strategic asset and liability management, and long term planning relating to financial matters as well as real estate, income tax, insurance and estate planning. He is also Managing Partner of SJO Worldwide a venture capital company. www.maclendon.com • 855.MAC.WEALTH