New Year's Resolutions for a Safer, More Secure 2012

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With 2011 winding down, many people are looking back and reflecting on the year that was.  Everywhere you look it seems like there's another "Top 10" list and someone is recapping all of the wonderful and terrible things that happened in the past year.  Instead of looking back, however, I'm looking to the future and thinking about how each and every one of us can make ourselves safer and more secure in 2012.

Here are some ideas for identity theft protection resolutions that you can make for a safer New Year; each idea is something that you can work toward to help keep yourself and your family safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, cyber-crimes and more. While some of the items in the list may seem like common sense, even the most basic identity protection tasks are often overlooked in favor of convenience or procrastination.  Oprah once said: "Every right decision I've ever made has come from my gut, & every wrong decision I've ever made was a result of me not listening." If you remember that one quote, you might be more apt to
review the below list, and then take time to determine what you need to do to give yourself a safer 2012.

•    Protect all devices that connect to the Internet. Along with computers, smartphones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from hackers, viruses and malware.

•    Change your passwords. Many online banking websites require that you change your password every few months, but what about the sites that don't?  When was the last time you changed your online passwords without some sort of prompting to do so?  This is as good of a time as any to change (and strengthen) your passwords... all of them.

•    Buy a paper shredder.  Don't skimp on it, either, as items shredded in cheap shredders can be easily pieced back together with some tape.  There are actually six security ratings for shredders, with the highest rating meeting the requirements of the NSA and US Central Security Services.  Look for a level 6 shredder or one that claims compliance with NSA/CSS Specification 02-01 to ensure the most secure shredding possible.  If the shredder has an option for credit cards and CDs, even better.

•    Look for secure websites.  Too often we take online security for granted, not bothering to check out the websites we're shopping at.  Take the time to actually check and see if your data is being transmitted securely before you click submit; this can be done by looking for a lock icon in the navigation bar and seeing whether the website has "https://" instead of the more common "http://" at the front of its web address.  If the site isn't secure or seems suspicious, take your business elsewhere.

•    Review your credit reports and dispute inaccuracies.  When was the last time that you actually looked at a copy of your credit report?  Head to and request the legit free annual credit report that you're entitled to by law. Keep in mind; even if you've signed up for credit monitoring or whole-identity monitoring/protection services, they may not identify and alert you to fraud that was already on your report before you signed up for the service. Additionally, it's important you make certain your credit reports are free from inaccurate creditor and lender reporting of payments for auto, mortgage and other data that can negatively impact your credit score.

•    File your taxes early.  Tax fraud is big business in identity theft these days, and while the IRS managed to catch 96% of fraud cases before they were processed in 2011 that still means that 4% went undetected.  Putting your taxes off until the last minute gives identity thieves more time to file a false return in your name, and make off with your tax refund. File early to eliminate yourself as a target, and you'll get your tax return back faster as well.

•    Review today's ID theft trends.  Knowledge is your best defense against fraud. Think about your current identity security practices and how you can improve them in the coming year. Being forewarned and informed about the latest fraud trends can go a long way in reducing your risk and keeping your New Year fraud-and drama--free.

•    Discuss online safety with your family. Talking to your kids about smartphone and cyber security practices has become as important as talking to your children about drugs. If you haven't yet had the "talk" about cell phone and cyber security, gaming, id theft, predator, bullying, scams and other online risks, --consider this resolution a top priority for the New Year. 

Spend a little time reviewing some earlier blogs on identity theft prevention, the importance of smartphone security, and cyber-crimes and ongoing scams

The New Year is a time to reflect on the prior year. A New Year signifies a fresh start --second chances to do it over, do it better or simply do it right. Some of us vow to get physically fit, and others vow to better themselves financially. Some people commit to finding ways to make a positive difference -in their life or the lives of others. It's in that same spirit, that I share the following quote that you can reflect on: "If you resolve to make at least one person happy every single day, then in ten years you will have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or perhaps brightened a small town." ~Sidney Smith

I wish you all a safe and happy 2012! Take charge of your identity -- and your destiny--and let this coming New Year be free from fraud and fraudsters.  


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