Protect your sh*t!

Jonathan Kaupanger
July 05, 2018 - 4:04 pm

Dreamstime

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No one is safe from an identity thief. Not even America’s oldest living veteran. Last week, family members of Richard Arvin Overton discovered that his bank account was drained dry.

Someone stole his social security number and bank account and was able to purchase bonds with his money. Overton, according to CNBC is still able to live at home, but requires 24-hour-a-day help. The care for the 112-year-old, World War II veteran costs about $15,000 each month. 

A GoFundMe page was set up to help Overton and the good news is, they’ve almost reached the goal. Even better news, his bank restored the account to what it was before his identity was stolen. 

It looks like things are working out for Overton and his family but there are a few things you can do today that will help keep your identity safe.

  1. Use strong passwords.  Use both upper and lowercase letters and numbers. Don’t be obvious and use your birth date or mom’s maiden name. You can test your password at sites like How Secure Is My Password?  
  2. Lock up your records.  Keep financial documents and any records with sensitive information in a secure place. Try to avoid carrying around anything with your personal information. For your medical records, you can sign up for the VLER Health Exchange and even if you use CHOICE, the VA will share your records electronically, cutting the need for you to carry anything with you.
  3. Shred sensitive documents. A cross-cutting shredder is best.
  4. Lock your computer.  If you’re using a computer in a public place or just at your office, every time you get up from your computer, lock it!
  5. Secure your wireless network.  Unprotected wireless networks put sensitive information in danger. Make sure your wireless network at home is secured with a strong password (see #1). 
  6. Keep virus protection strong.  Always update your anti-virus software.  Also, computer systems and even browsers should be kept up to date and at the highest security level.
  7. Watch faxes and mailings.  Always check to see if documents are stuck together before mailing anything with personal information. When faxing, yes this is still a thing, contact the recipient before the transmission so they are aware that the information is coming. Afterwards, check again to make sure it was received.
  8. Avoid clicking on links or attachments.  Think before you click!  Look for spelling errors, email addresses that don’t look right. If you just aren’t sure, best practice is to manually enter the URL of the organization instead of clicking on a link. 

The Department of Justice recommends four steps to help keep you safe.  You can use the acronym SCAM to remember what it is too.

  • S   Remain STINGY about giving personal information to anyone.
  • C   CONTACT financial institution or credit card companies immediately to report unauthorized withdrawals or charges. 
  • A   You should ASK for a copy of your credit report occasionally. 
  • M  MAINTAIN careful banking and financial records.

Finally, VA started the Identity Safety Service (ISS) in 2008 to help veterans who may be dealing with identity theft.  You can contact ISS staff through its toll-free Identity Theft help line at (855) 578-5492 or by email at [email protected].  

If you think you've been hacked, immediately call your state’s attorney general and let them know what happened. After that you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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