Medical professionals have an ID-theft target on their backs. Most are high-profile because their name is easy to find and, let’s face it, the general public thinks MD stands for “More Dollars.”
What’s more, Javelin Research and Strategy found that there was a new identity fraud victim every two seconds in 2013 and, even though they are not all doctors, the total number of people affected spiked by a whopping 500,000 from the prior year.
So the question becomes, what can doctors do about it?
Unfortunately, true prevention of identify fraud is nearly impossible. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider adding some form of identity theft protection into your current budget. Think of it this way: a fire alarm doesn’t prevent a fire, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Like explaining to a patient that working out and eating right is important for their health, understanding how to self-protect is vital to protecting your identity as well. Here are six basic actions you should take right away:
Understand what’s in your pockets. Don’t put any unnecessary information in your wallet, purse or phone — and put a lock on your phone as well.
Be conscious of your Social Security number. Be judicious in sharing this information. Note, however, that you will need to share your number if you sign up for ID theft protection services or credit monitoring.
Avoid clicking on suspicious or unfamiliar email links.
Always shred sensitive documents.
Have a safe, reliable method of receiving and sending mail.
Make sure that you review your credit card statements and bank accounts regularly.
Although you are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting your identity, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else on your side as well. There are numerous companies that offer identity theft protection. At the end of the day, identity theft protection service is really just a fancy way to say ongoing monitoring, tracking and repairing of your credit and personal inquiries.
The price for these services vary, but often times you can lock in coverage for somewhere between $120 - $300 per year. For many of us, that's a small price to pay for additional protection.
When evaluating which company to utilize, look for one who will help repair any and all damages that may come from identity theft and make sure they will follow through with that promise. In addition, most, if not all, will continually track credit from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Ideally, you can find coverage that will track all three. Your coverage should also protect dependents and minors.
Ultimately, you’re responsible for protecting your identity, but understand you can add an additional layer of security for the price of dinner. You and your family’s financial health may depend on it.
Compliments of Wes Sharp, Financial Advisor.