National Consumer Protection Week is March 2-8. It’s a national reminder that for all the hard work you do to build a solid financial foundation for you and your loved ones, it’s just as important that you take the necessary steps to protect the fruit of all that hard work. To help you stay safe and protected MMI and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offer the following tips and advice.
Protect your personal information
Instances of identity theft have been the most common and prevalent complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for well over a decade. Identity thieves are constantly evolving their tactics, incorporating tax information, medical records, and even the identity of young children into their schemes. There’s no foolproof way to guarantee protection against identity theft, but there’s a lot you can do to stay safe.
- Keep your passwords private. Don’t share your passwords with a third party. Avoid the convenience of using a single password on every site. Change your passwords periodically.
- Encrypt your data. Understand the security settings on whatever browser you use to browse the internet. A secure website should show a “lock” icon in the address bar – this tells you that it’s safe to submit personal information through that site.
- Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. Even using a secure browser and a secure website, you run the risk of having your personal information compromised when you make sensitive transactions while on a public Wi-Fi network.
- Limit the information you share on social networking sites. Be aware of the privacy settings of all social sites you frequent and be careful about what information you share publicly. Identity thieves can use the information pulled from public profiles to scam their way into more sensitive information.
- Safely dispose of old computers and cell phones. Whether you’re selling, trading in, or recycling your out-of-date technology, make sure that the information stored inside is thoroughly and completely wiped away. Use a wipe utility program to safely remove all personal data from an unwanted computer. Remove the SIM card from unused phones and refer to your instruction manual for the correct way to clean out all remaining personal data.
Review your credit report
It can’t be overstated how important your credit report is to our overall financial health. And similarly, it can’t be overstated how often errors seep into otherwise spotless credit histories. Everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each major credit bureau every 12 months, so make sure you review yours regularly. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free copy.
Understand your insurance coverage
Protect yourself against costly surprises. Making a claim only to discover a loophole in coverage can be financially devastating. Set an appointment with your insurance agent to confirm that the coverage is adequate, and review opportunities to save on premiums.
Know the laws that protect you
In all facets of life, you often need to be your own advocate. There are many laws out there designed to protect consumers, but you have to know what those laws are in order to make sure that your rights aren’t being abused. The Federal Reserve maintains a nice summary of all the credit related regulations you should know about. Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) exists primarily to advocate on behalf of American consumers and ensure proper enforcement of those protections. If you feel that you have been the victim of unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts you can submit a complaint directly to the CFPB.