December is Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention month.
Identity theft is cited by the FTC as the number one consumer fraud in the US. During the holiday seasons, when your bank accounts are more active, it is especially important to be aware of how you can prevent identity theft and what to do if your information is compromised.
Here are some preventative tips to help keep you safe:
1. Avoid Disclosing Personal Information Over the Phone
Unless you initiated the call, do not disclose any information that may put you at risk for identity theft, including your card information, social security number, or bank account information. If a caller from an institution that you know asks for this information, offer to call them back to give the information or deliver it in person.
2. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
3. Analyze Your Bank Statement and Bills Each Month
Monitoring your statements each month will make fraudulent charges stick out quickly. Smart hackers will try to camouflage fraudulent actions so that they don’t stand out on your statements. Keeping a record of your transactions will allow you to sort out any fraudulent charges.
4. Pay Your Bills Online
Change your bill settings to stop receiving bills by mail and instead pay your bills online over a secure internet connection.
5. Shred Any Documents that Reveal Personal Information
A general rule of thumb is that when you are done with a document: shred it. All TopLine Credit Union Locations offer free Shred-It™ services where you can bring your past bills, receipts, financial statements and more to have them securely shredded and tossed.
6. Keep Your Passwords and PIN Codes Secure
Do not use personal information such as birthdays for passwords or PIN codes; these are easily breached. Instead, choose more complicated passwords and record them in safe places, such as a document stored locally on your computer. As an additional security measure, try to change out your passwords after about three months.
These are only a few of the preventative measures that can reduce your risk of identity theft. But what can you do if you become a victim of identity theft?
- Contact the Police Immediately to File a Report
- Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/
This FTC site will help you report the theft, assist you in filing an affidavit that will ensure you are not responsible for fraudulent charges, and develop an action plan for how to navigate through the recovery process. If you prefer to contact the FTC by phone, you can dial 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
- Contact Your Financial Institutions to Alert them of the Fraud
- Contact Credit Agencies to Protect Your Credit
You can put a temporary freeze on your credit report so that no one can run your credit without you first being notified. Contact all three credit agencies to set that up:
- Equifax: http://www.equifax.com or at 800-525-6285
- Experian: http://www.experian.com or at 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com or at 800-680-7289
As December is Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention month, swing by any TopLine location during the month of December to pick up your free Identity Theft Handbook. This handbook will help you understand how identity theft occurs, what steps you can take to protect your personal information, and what to do if it happens to you.
For more information, visit our Financial Education page.