I recently sat down one Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand, ready to review my online accounts. When looking at the details of my charitable gift fund, I noticed a $0 balance. I quickly called the customer service line only to hear that they were unsure as to why the balance was showing a $0 balance.
Needless to say, this news was extremely unsettling.
My mind quickly thought of the possible scenarios. How did someone have access to my account? What did they do with the money? Where did it go? Do they have access to my other accounts?
My only saving grace came from the realization that an identity thief could not legally use the funds for personal reasons since the funds can only be used with a legitimate 501(c)(3) organization. So at the very least, identify theft from this account would actually be helping someone.
A few days later, I received a call from customer service that it was an IT issue and that my account should now reflect correct amount. But over the course of those two days, I got to thinking about how secure my other accounts are and if I have taken the proper steps to secure them.
Password protect your smartphone
The first thing I did was to ensure the home screen to my smartphone was password protected for the off chance it was ever stolen. I often use my smartphone to make mobile check deposits and transfer money between accounts. If anyone got a hold of my unlocked phone, a savvy thief could easily retrieve that sensitive information.
Use a shredder
Next, I swore I would dust off the old shredder and begin shredding sensitive documents. I actually went against conventional wisdom years ago and stopped using it, but its back on its perch atop my trash can.
Check financial statements/accounts
I then made a list of things I need to do routinely such as checking bank and credit card statements for unusual activity. I usually do this via an online tool that aggregates all of my accounts into a single view so this is a relatively easy step.
Wifi – Protect yourself
The wifi network in my home is currently password protected, but I have now made a conscious effort to change the password regularly. Additionally, I plan on being more careful when accessing financial websites while on public wifi networks.
Watch those tweets and status updates
During my two-day panic attack, I read stories about how people updated their Facebook status or tweeted that they are about to go on vacation. For someone who has access to your wall, this is an invitation to them to come by your house while you’re gone.
It’s amazing what a little false alarm can do to the way you look at life moving forward. I am thankful that my identity wasn’t actually stolen and I can’t imagine what its like for someone who’s had their personal information hacked. Though this a false alarm, it did expose some holes in my financial strategy, so in a way, I’m thankful for the brief panic attack. It’s made me safer in the end.
What do you do to make sure your money is safe?