1. When and where to give out important information like social security number, birthday, and bank info?
Only disclose important information for self-initiated applications for priority items, i.e. loans, education, accounts, applications, job applications, etc.
2. How to know if a website is secure, for example putting in your credit/debit card info to buy something?
Ensure the site is encrypted. If it is not a site you normally visit/use, I would research the website/app and ensure the information sharing is reliable. If it does not feel right, it probably isn't. You can see in the URL “HTTPS” the “S” means secure. I often err on the side of caution and only provide information sparingly even if it is HTTPS. There are still ways that hackers can obtain personal information such as debit and credit card numbers since nothing is 100% safe.
3. How to protect your identity?
Be proactive about looking at your bank accounts daily. Make sure you confirm purchases on your account. If something does not match up then follow up with your bank immediately so you can put a hold on your account(s). Practice safe habits by only inputting your personal information into well known sites, such as for utility bills, mortgage, auto loans, credit bureaus. Never store your vital information on the same digital device you are using to enter/purchase items requiring the same vital information. Don't share usernames/passwords with anyone. Limit the social media sites you use as they use 3rd party vendors that solicit based on permission you allow by simply accepting the terms to use the site. Don't open emails you aren't familiar with. Don't verify your information on the phone unless you are making the phone call to a known source.
4. What to do if your identity is stolen, where to report, and how to fix the situation as best as possible?
In the event your identity is stolen or compromised. Contact your local Police department to inform them of the issue you are encountering. You will then be provided a case number from the Officer. You should then contact the credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and put a flag on your accounts. You will also provide the Police case number to the credit bureaus. Be sure to notify SSA of your compromised identity.
Work with the Police department as best as you can because a forthcoming victim will assist the investigation and provide information faster to the Officer. Often Police Officers will be required to complete a subpoena to obtain information for the victim’s account and then follow the evidence to where their stolen identity or credit card was used. Sometimes in this investigation process there is surveillance, which can assist us with this process and could lead to charging a person.
5. How to start building a good credit score?
Always work with your parents or guardians when it comes to starting your credit. Your limit should be low, so that you do not accidentally make a large purchase and can’t pay off your limit. Small purchases that you can pay off every month is a great way to start building your credit.
Make all payments on time (auto pay for as much as you can from your checking/savings account, not a debit card). Have open credit accounts that get paid on time, and ensure they are completely closed upon completed final payment.
6. How to know if a call is a telephone scam?
If someone calls you and they act as a Police Officer, car warranty business or other entity and request personal information that should be an indicator that this is a scam and they are trying to compromise your identity and/or take money from you. Never provide personal information to anyone that calls you. Often even when you call an entity they will not have you provide personal information.
Numbers that are not recognizable, especially out of state or out of country are more than suspicious. If they are telling or asking you very personal/vital information, it's probably a scam. Most reputable companies you are a customer of will not call you to obtain that information. If the number cannot be called back easily, it's a scam. Same company calls repeatedly, but the number is different each time, it's a scam.
7. What to look for in email scams?
Look for “Not Secure” “HTTP” in the link and look for small variances of how an email name may be if you receive one. Look at signatures in the emails as well as phone numbers because they could be incorrect to the actual owner of the email.
Companies you are a customer of or have been affiliated with in the past will not email you solicitation information. Call the company before replying to ensure they intended to contact you. If they know nothing, it's a scam. If they're asking for money or vital information, it's a scam.