We all need to share personal information with doctors, financial companies, and other providers. You try to keep that information private and secure, but scammers and identity thieves are working just as hard to obtain it.
The risk of identity theft—in which a criminal uses another person's identity for financial gain—can feel so pervasive that it's easy to become numbed to the danger.
But there's good news too. While identity theft had been sharply on the rise for many years, reported incidents of identity theft actually fell in 2022, according to the US Federal Trade Commission.* That decline may not be due to a drop in identity theft attempts, but rather due to the effectiveness of preventative measures and increased consumer vigilance.
Fortunately, you already have 2 simple tools that can help keep your information safe: your email address and mobile phone number. With the help of advanced technology, financial institutions and other companies can use your digital information to help safeguard your confidential information, identity, and money.
The idea that going digital could help protect your information may seem counterintuitive. Paper statements and other snail mail may just feel more secure than having your information transmitted over the internet or phone networks.
Yet paper documents can be highly vulnerable to theft. Physical documents can be stolen from mailboxes, taken during a burglary, or lifted from the trash. They may offer a trove of information to bad actors, including Social Security numbers, health information, bank account numbers, and other sensitive data.
Easy steps for powerful protection
You and your providers can start establishing strong defenses against criminals using just your digital identity, including your email address and mobile phone number.
One key defense this can enable, and which many institutions use, is called multi-factor authentication (2-factor authentication, or 2FA, is an example of this). When multi-factor authentication is set up, accessing your account (or accessing it from a new device), generally entails:
- Step 1: Logging in with your ID and password.
- Step 2: Verifying your identity another way, such as by entering a security code provided via text or email, or verifying through an authenticator app or push notification on your device.
Using an extra step at login not only helps prevent scammers from accessing your accounts and data—even if they somehow managed to get your login information—it can also give you a heads up if someone is trying to log in to your account without your permission.
An added benefit of sharing your email address and mobile phone number with your trusted providers is that it can help them alert you as soon as possible if there is ever suspicious activity on your account. While these scenarios may be unlikely, you would want to know immediately if someone unauthorized is trying to access sensitive data or change key information, such as beneficiary names or passwords. Text messages and emails can give you a heads-up in real time to any potentially suspicious issues, so you can block access or stop changes before they take effect. This is especially important in cases where money could be transferred out of your account.
More ways to protect yourself
Your mobile phone number and email address can help provide a foundation for account security. Following a few more best practices can help build your defenses even higher:
- Think twice before giving out sensitive information to anyone you don't know. Never provide personal or sensitive information to someone who has reached out using a phone number you don't recognize. Scammers typically use urgent-sounding language, but don't take the bait. When in doubt, look up your provider's phone number and call them to ask about the communication to verify if it's real.
- Be wary of links and attachments you receive via email or text. Verify the sender before clicking on links or opening attachments in emails or texts that appear to come from one of your providers (scammers may impersonate companies and institutions by sending official-sounding and official-looking emails). Getting people to click links or open attachments is a key tool for criminals, as it can allow them to install malicious software on your computer or gain access to your passwords and usernames. While some scams can be easy to spot—such as messages with typos or grammar issues—others may put on a convincing act of appearing to come from an official source. Again, when in doubt, reach out to your provider directly using publicly available contact information.
- Consider going fully paperless. Documents can be stolen from a mailbox or recycling bin, but security on digital communications is continually improving. Phones, and even some individual apps, have the additional benefit of strong security features. The devices may require facial or fingerprint verification, providing layers of protection that are not available when you get something in the mail or take a phone call.
- Only use secure Wi-Fi. Everyone loves free Wi-Fi, but unsecured public wireless access points are easy to intercept, providing an opportunity for attackers to snoop on your online activity. A safer alternative is to use only secure Wi-Fi networks.
Sharing private information with key providers is an unavoidable part of modern life. A few simple steps, including sharing your email address and mobile phone number with trusted organizations, can help keep your identity and your money safe.
Ready to take the next step?
If you're a Fidelity customer, you can:
- Make sure we have your correct contact information. Log in at Fidelity.com and select the Profile link at the top left. Confirm or update your email and mobile phone number, so we can reach you if we ever need to.
- Set up 2-factor authentication. If you haven't already, you can enable 2-factor authentication by visiting the Security CenterLog In Required.
- Go paperless. Visit Communication PreferencesLog In Required to select eDelivery for some or all account documents and opt in to receive emails on account activity and other service-related communications.
- Add our information to your contacts. Fidelity will only call you using a phone number listed on our website. Our emails will be sent from either @mail.fidelity.com or @fidelity.com.
And finally, you can learn more about account security measures. Explore how we're committed to your security, including with strong encryption, firewalls, secure email, and proactive 24/7 system surveillance.