Financial experts urge Rockfordians to take steps to protect their identity this holiday season

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - As we approach the holiday season, the chances of someone stealing your identity increases dramatically. In fact, according to consulting group Javelin, Rockford ranks 18th for highest number of identity theft victims, with 792 per 100,000 people.

“Unfortunately, you know it is something that we see growing, or continuing to grow. Chances are at some point in our lifetime, everybody that’s listening to this is going to probably be a target or victim of some kind,” said Andrew Burgess, operations manager with Anchor Wealth Management.

“It can be as simple as they’re using your name or your address, your phone number, to order things or say they live in your house. To extreme as, they’ve hacked into your emails and they’re sending emails to your friends and family,” he said.

Burgess says Rockford and its surrounding area is a perfect blend of urban and rural populations, making it great for scammers. Gift giving around the holidays raises the risk of becoming a victim, especially if you make purchases on an unsafe network.

“Taking your computer out to an airport or to any of these other networks that might not be password protected might not be as secure,” Burgess said.

To protect yourself, Dennis Horton, part of the area’s Better Business Bureau, has some tips:

• Beware of fake websites: Check the URL and keep an eye out for bad grammar. Research the age of the domain because that could give away whether it’s the actual company.

• Professional photos don’t necessarily come from the real website. Scammers often steal photos from websites to make it look more real.

• Make sure the website is secure. Look for the “HTTPS” in the URL (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar in the top left corner. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “HTTP” because that link is not secure.

• Pay with a credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any questionable charges show up later, you can contest them through your bank.

Other suggestions include regularly changing your password, avoiding links you don’t recognize, and shredding your bank statements after reading them.