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Passwords must be stronger to protect against identity thefts

In light of recent events with some major retailers, here are some ways to help protect your identity from theft.
Identity thieves love passwords because they open doors to our personal information. If possible, use different passwords for all your accounts, and make those passwords strong with at least eight characters, including a mix of letters and numbers. Hide them safely, and keep them accessible. This may take some extra work, but fixing an identity theft problem is tougher.
Protect your Social Security number. Never carry your card with you, or any other card that may have your number (like an insurance card). Also, don’t put the number on your checks. It’s a major target for identity thieves because it gives them access to your credit report and bank accounts.
Always monitor your credit report. Get and carefully review your credit report at least once a year to check for suspicious activity. If you find something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately. You may also look into credit protection services, which alerts you any time a change takes place with your credit report.
Destroy private records and statements. Tear up or shred credit cards statements, solicitations, and other documents that contain private financial information.
Secure your mail. Empty your mailbox quickly, lock it or get a post office box so no one will have a chance to steal any credit card offers you may receive. Also, don’t mail outgoing bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and the payee’s name erased with solvents. Mail them from the post office or another secure location.
Don’t leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.
Never let your credit card out of your sight. Worried about credit card skimming? Always keep an eye on your card or, when that’s not possible, pay with cash.
Know who you’re dealing with. Whenever anyone contacts you asking for private identity or financial information, make no response other than to find out who they are, what company they represent and the reason for the call. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company yourself and confirm what you were told before revealing any of your personal data.
Take your name off telemarketers’ lists. In addition to the national Do-Not-Call registry, you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations.
Be more defensive with personal information. Ask salespeople and others if information such as a Social Security number  or driver’s license number is absolutely necessary. Ask anyone who does require your Social Security number about their privacy policy, and that you do not want your information given to anyone else.
Review your credit cards statements carefully. Make sure you recognize the merchants, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you don’t need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, consider closing the accounts.

– Chip Gordy, MBA, CRPC is a Financial Advisor with Coastal Wealth Management, LLC, 10441 Racetrack Rd, Unit 1, Berlin, Md.,, 21811 and specializes in wealth and retirement planning. He can be reached at 410-208-4545 or Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Coastal Wealth Management LLC & Cambridge are not affiliated. Cambridge does not offer tax advice.