Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft
by Jessica A. Hayes, Esq.
A headache no one wants to deal with — but over 13 million Americans fell victim to last year — is identify theft. Take these steps to minimize your risk.
- Choose online passwords carefully. Use a different password for every online account; the passwords you use to log in to your e-mail address and your bank account should never be the same. In addition, use passwords that are hard to guess. Never use your birthday, your address, or your pet’s name. Use a random combination of letters and numbers to better protect yourself.
- Protect your children and grandchildren. Minors are more than 50% more likely than adults to have their identities stolen, and most won’t realize it until they’re old enough to apply for a student loan or a job. Give out their Social Security Numbers only when absolutely required, and be careful not to list their full names and dates of birth online, especially when announcing a birth.
- Look for a secure connection when shopping online. To ensure that a website uses a secure connection, look at the website’s address. If it starts with “https,” the connection is secure. If it does not, think twice before entering your credit card information.
- Avoid conducting personal business on public wi-fi networks. It is easier for others to hack into your computer, phone, etc. if you’re using a public wi-fi connection to complete your banking, shopping, and other tasks involving your financial information.
- If you’re active duty military, place a free “active duty” alert on file with one of the three credit agencies (the one you contact will notify the other two). This will ensure that credit cannot be granted in your name without your authorization while you are deployed.
- Use a locked mailbox for incoming mail, so others can’t intercept your mail before you get to it.
- Drop outgoing mail in a collection box or at the post office rather than leaving it in your mailbox for pick-up. Leaving important pieces of mail, like checks, in your unlocked mailbox makes it all too easy for others to take them.
- Check your credit report at least annually at com (or by calling 1-877-322-8228), and notify the financial institution and a credit reporting agency if your report contains inaccuracies. You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
- Carefully read all documents you are asked to sign. Too often, seniors are asked to sign documents without being given a chance to review and understand them, and the results can be devastating. Watch carefully to ensure you are not being asked to sign a contract, a will, power of attorney, or other document that does not accurately reflect your wishes. When in doubt, do not sign; contact an attorney for assistance.
- Don’t open e-mails from people whose names you don’t recognize or click on links that are sent to you unless you were expecting them. If you receive an e-mail from a financial institution asking you to log in to your account, provide personal information, or call a certain phone number, research the official phone number for that institution and call to determine whether the request is legitimate.
Shred old medical and personal records, credit card offers, and other documents which contain personally identifying information such as your Social Security Number or date of birth. Take advantage of Hook Law Center’s annual shred day on August 22, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at our Virginia Beach office to help safely dispose of sensitive information.
Ask Kit Kat – Spraying for Mosquitoes
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, why do people object to mosquito spraying?
Kit Kat: Well, some people object to mosquito spraying by their respective cities, because they fear it will hurt bees which are pollinators for flowers. One such person called the city of Virginia Beach recently , and she found that a resident can opt out of the city spraying program by displaying a red tag in their yard or on their mailbox which the city provides. The City of Chesapeake also allows residents to opt out of mosquito spraying, but they keep an internal list and do not visibly mark those who are in or out of the program.
Both cities say the amount of spray is usually quite harmless, even to bees. The spray is made from a synthetic form of something derived from the chrysanthemum. Dreda Symonds, a biologist with the city of Virginia Beach, explains that the pesticides used in the spray ‘…are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, have a very low toxicity, and are applied at a rate of about three tablespoons to an area the size of a football field.’ At that level, you’d have to be the size of a mosquito to be impacted. Also, the spray is done after analysis of the mosquito level in a particular area. Traps are put out in specific locations around the respective cities. Depending on the number and type found, a spraying program is devised. Finally, mosquito-reducing tactics not involving spraying are also employed. All the cities discourage residents from keeping pools of stagnant water, like plant saucers or large bird baths. If they are aware of standing water near drains or in other places, the water is syphoned off.
So you might want to think twice about requesting your yard to be exempted from spraying. If too many people opt out, it reduces the effectiveness for the whole neighborhood.
(Stacy Parker, “The Buzz at the Beach,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 16, 2015, p. 1 and 9)
- August 12, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.
- August 20, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking on Veterans Benefits at The Chesapeake Assisted Living Facility in Chesapeake, Virginia.
- August 21, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.
- August 22, 2015 – Hook Law Center is sponsoring “Shred with a Purpose” to be held at our Virginia Beach office, 295 Bendix Road, from 9am until 12Noon. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Association for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” will also be accepted. For more information, please call 757-399-7506 or click the following link to view the event flyer: Shred With A Purpose Flyer.
- August 25 & 26, 2015 – Hook Law Center Seminar Series: Topic: “My Father Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s… Now What?” Click Here for Locations and Registration.
- August 27, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News, Virginia.
- September 9, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking at a Virginia Continuing Legal Education seminar.
- October 9, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be part of a panel discussion at the 2015 Art of Healthy Aging Forum & Expo on Friday, October 9, 2015, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, 100 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. The forum & expo runs from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 until September 30th (limited seating). $25 at the door. To register for this event, please click registration.
- October 26, 2015 – Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s seminar on The Probate Process from Start to Finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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