9 Million Reasons to Protect Your Identity

9 Million Reasons to Protect Your Identity

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.  With this many occurrences, it’s likely that you already know someone who has had their identity stolen.

I have put together a list of common best practices that will help you protect yourself and your customers from identity theft.  Passing this information on to your customers and prospects ultimately benefits your dealership:  A prospect who has a stellar 800+ credit score one day, could be surprised to find that score knocked down or flagged for fraud alert when they try to finance an RV, making the sale tougher than it needs to be.  In addition, customers will give you kudos just for passing on these helpful tips to secure their identity.

Start by searching for your business name and phone number on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! search engines.  You might find that someone else has a website with your name on it.  Recently, thieves have created fake dealer websites, offering unbelievable prices and convincing customers to wire deposits for securing fake deals.  When the customer shows up at your dealership to take delivery of that 2010 diesel pusher they paid $8,000 for, you will have more than a case of mistaken identity on your hands.

When creating usernames and passwords, you should try to use a random password combination to avoid your account being compromised.  Case sensitive passwords are best, since they make cracking a password over 26 times harder.  According to PCMag.com, the most commonly used password is “password”  (that’s a tough one), closely followed by “123456” (another toughie), “letmein” (Let Me In), and “monkey.”   Anyone using “Monkey” for a password, deserves to have their ID revoked.

Automated hacking programs can try up to 2,000,000 password combinations per second, so don’t use words in the dictionary of any language, common names, dates, or social security numbers in your passwords – or the word “Monkey.”

It’s also said that the higher up the ladder you go, the easier the password is to crack.  Presidents and CEOs hate to change their passwords and unfortunately, they out-rank the IT administrator; as such, they just keep typing their little four character password that they’ve used for the past 10 years.

Another important and preventable way to protect your identity is by locking up your birth certificate, social security card, and passport.  You should only be carrying these documents around when you are traveling or absolutely need them.  These documents aren’t just used for credit fraud, they are also used to create fake work permit papers by illegal aliens.  Don’t be surprised when you find out your employee John Doe isn’t really John Doe.  Worse yet, wait until the IRS says you have been working 5 different jobs, in different cities, all at the same time.  Many illegal aliens will pass information around so that others can work under the same assumed name.

Businesses and individuals need to cross shred all discarded documents that contain sensitive information or hire a professional and confidential document shredding company.  Regular shredding is still too easy for potential “dumpster divers” to piece back together.

Be sure to review all of your credit card and/or bank statements as soon as they arrive or track them closely online if possible.  Most of your cards should be protected from fraud, but many banks are shortening the time you have to report fraudulent charges before they become your responsibility.

When at all possible, do not use a debit card while shopping online or in any other seemingly risky place.  Debit cards are linked to your actual bank account, and this could allow a thief to drain your entire bank balance before you even find out something is wrong.  Even if your bank reimburses you for the loss, this typically is not immediate and would leave you temporarily without any cash.

Sensitive customer information is lost or stolen every year by banks, healthcare companies, and even government agencies so it is also a good idea to tell your customers to check their credit report at least a couple of times each year.

By sharing your business’s existing security policies with your potential customers, it will put them at ease while you handle their personal information. Reviewing the above best practices with your customers will help ensure that their credit is not blemished and will begin to build an ID security awareness in your dealership.

Tip of the Week: Don’t use “Monkey” for your password.

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