The NSA has recently garnered headlines around the globe as a result of its covert data gathering program, PRISM. The existence of data gathering surprises very few people but the reality that OUR personal information is being stored is a bit jarring.

Many questions arise when we consider the implications of personal information existing out in the world for others to see and use.

  • Who has access?
  • What can it be used for?
  • Will I know if it is being used?
  • Is someone watching out for me and making sure I am not a victim?
  • What kind of consequences will I face if my information is stolen and used fraudulently or criminally?

The approach we advocate is one which we believe can be done by anyone, even those of us less tech savvy – Prevent and Monitor.

PREVENT

Prevention is taking care of personal data just like as we would care for our physical property. This is recognition that my personal information is being used regularly, usually for my benefit, and that I need to protect it as much as possible when I am not using it. Bank accounts, credit cards, social media, online banking, financial statements,  taxes, and property ownership are all common areas where we regularly access information pertinent to us.

The most effective protection against theft are basic, everyday habits that keep your information safe. These may include password protecting our computers, loging off web sites such as social media, email and online financial institutions, securing physical documents in a safe or filing cabinet and shredding personal documents.

More information about the prevention of Identify Theft  can be found at the the FTC Consumer website, How to Keep your Personal Information Secure.

We encourgage you to implement good habits to prevent those seeking to capitalize on data theft. A more active approach to preventing ID Theft involves the monitoring of your financial statements and credit report to detect fraudulent activity.

MONITOR

Every month financial institutions  provide account holders with a statement reflecting the recent history to their account. In most cases consumers have access to this information in real time by utilizing the financial institutions online resources. The review and confirmation of your recent transactions is a strategy to effectively identify fraudulent charges to your account.

Online software applications, such as Mint.com®, provide a consolidated approach with bank level encryption and security to the monitoring of your accounts. Sean Storck, Financial and Tax Adviser of Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc. has personally benefited from the use of Mint.com’s aggregation technology.

Sean Storck – “After the setup process, Mint.com gathers transaction data from each account to where I can see real time, even pending transactions. Twice I have caught fraudulent activity while it was still pending clearance on an unused debit card.”

Another important step to monitoring your financial information is the infrequent check of your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to an annual free copy of your credit record with the three reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

More information about requesting your annual credit report can be found at the FTC Consumer Website, Free Credit Reports.

In reviewing your credit report you want to ensure that you recognize all of the accounts listed. It may also be a good opportunity to close accounts that are no longer in use, and report any accounts that you do not recognize.

We ask that you proceed with caution when enlisting the services of a credit monitoring or ID theft organization. Many of these services have been fraught with false advertising claims, breaches of their own data, questions regarding effectiveness catching fraud, and concerns about response time.

Ultimately, there is no perfect approach. Pandora’s Box has been opened and our data is available  for the taking. However, with good habits to protect data and the active monitoring of you financial history, we believe it is possible to reduce the probabily of being candidates for identity theft.

We welcome your input and ask that you contact us with any questions or to help you establish your own approach to managing your data effectively and securely.

Securities offered through 1st Global Capital Corp., Member FINRA and SIPC. Bruce Rawdin-Baron, Steven W. Pollock, Sean Storck and Nicole Albrecht are Registered Representatives of 1st Global Capital Corp. Investment advisory services, including RBFI portfolios offered through Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc. IMS platform accounts offered through 1st Global Advisors, Inc. Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc. and 1st Global Capital Corp. are unaffiliated entities. Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser. Insurance services offered through 1st Global Insurance Services. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. We currently have individuals licensed to offer securities in the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Washington. This is not an offer to sell securities in any other state or jurisdiction. CA Department of Insurance License: Bruce Rawdin-Baron #0736631, Steven W. Pollock #OE98073, Sean Storck #0F25995 and Nicole Albrecht #0F99962