Credit fraud artists have been known to get your social security and credit card members by tapping into electronic credit reports and other computer files. With your name address and credit card number, anyone can run up charges in your name. With your bank account number, it's possible for someone to tap into your checking or savings accounts. Your brokerage number and social security number is sometimes all that's needed to order unauthorized trades. These valuable numbers are stored in countless electronic files and they're not all kept under digital lock and key.
The Better Business Bureau suggests the following tips for protecting your financial privacy in cyberspace.
For starters, check out your Internet service provider. If you have monthly charges billed to your credit card, find out how the provider protects its data base of customers' credit card numbers. If you don't get an adequate answer, look for another provider.
Don't send your account numbers, social security number, password or any other sensitive data via e-mail, unless it's encrypted.
Avoid easy-to-guess passwords such as your name, initials or birthdate. Instead, choose a mixture of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and even symbols. You should change your password periodically, and don't keep it stored near the computer.
Check your bank and credit card statements monthly. Your financial liability is limited if you report any fraudulent use immediately. You should also check your credit report once a year. if credit accounts have been opened in your name, you'll find them there.
Be particularly careful about divulging your social security number. Your employer, your bank, your brokerage and any other business that is required to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service has a legitimate need for your social security number. Beyond that, think twice before giving it out.