As a Realtor®, you put yourself out there. Between your website, directory listings, and mailing lists, a lot of people are introduced to your personal brand in one way or another. Unfortunately, this can expose your personal information to some who will want to know more. How you protect your identity will determine whether or not those few nefarious individuals will be successful.
Identity Theft on the Rise
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 85% of identity theft cases involved unauthorized use of bank account or credit card information with nearly 1 in 3 victims spending a month or more resolving the crime. The best way to avoid this predicament is by proactively securing your personal information.
Monitor Your Credit Reports Annually
As you’re well aware of, everyone is entitled to one free report from each of the three agencies per year. But life gets busy, tasks pile up, and it can be difficult to keep track of your credit report — until it’s too late. Some simple ways to keep track of your credit reports include:
- Create a yearly routine of ordering your reports within a week of your birthday
- Add a reminder to a task management or calendar program
- Delegate the reminder to a personal assistant
Safeguard Digital Information
From mobile devices to desktops, Realtors® are more connected than ever before. With the availability of Wi-Fi, accessing the Internet is instant and convenient. It also leaves the door wide open for malicious attacks and security breaches. Do the following to protect your information:
- Avoid public Wi-Fi connections, as your information can be viewed by others
- Use strong passwords and additional security features, like two-step authentication
- Keep security programs on computers and devices updated
Eliminate Paper Clutter with Sensitive Information
If you haven’t already, consider switching to paperless billing and communications with banks, lenders, schools, and organizations. Accumulating paper with sensitive information isn’t safe, as criminals can pull it out of the garbage and use it to fraudulently acquire goods and services. Reduce paper clutter with the following strategies:
- Purchase a paper shredder for your home and office
- Scan important documents into a secure cloud storage account and store originals in a safety deposit box
- Consider paperless accounting software to manage finances vs. a paper-based system
Limit Unsolicited Reviews of Your Information
Every time your name, address, birth date, or other information is accessed by a third party, there is an opportunity for identity theft. Reduce the number of unsolicited offers you receive and protect your information by opting out of certain offers, such as:
- Call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) to opt out of many pre-approved credit card offers
- Search your email and unsubscribe from offers you don’t need
- Never give personal information to anyone asking for it if you didn’t initiate the interaction
Use an Identity Theft Protection Service
When taking the first four steps, it’s unlikely identity theft will go unnoticed. However, an additional layer of protection is available by using a professional identity theft protection service. For a monthly or annual fee, identity protection companies offer a variety of services, from credit and account monitoring to insurance for fraudulent events. As an alternative, try contacting your financial and credit providers to take advantage of free or reduced cost fraud protection built into your plan.
Don’t Become a Victim
Realtors® are often their own businesses, meaning any interruption in personal or financial stability compromises their career. Don’t let this happen to you. Take steps now to monitor your personal information and immediately report inconsistencies.
Do you know anyone affected by identity theft?