How to Prevent Identity Theft

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

Knowledge of your social security number is a green light for hackers attempting to commit identity fraud. It is a crucial piece of information for you to keep safe. Memorize your number and leave any records of your social security number locked away in a safe place. Only give out your social security number when it is necessary and be sure to ask the institution you are giving it to about their privacy policy.

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?

  1. Contact the Police Immediately to File a Report
  2. Visit
    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).
  3. Contact Your Financial Institutions to Alert them of the Fraud
  4. 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:

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.


National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month

During this month of spending and online shopping, we observe National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. Holiday sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, increasing the opportunity for identity theft across the country.


Follow these steps to ensure you are keeping yourself protected from possible identity thieves:

Destroy Receipts and Statements
Anything that has your personal information–especially account numbers and card numbers–can be used against you. Carefully shred and dispose of any bank statements, insurance records, old cards, and even receipts that might have your card number printed on them. All TopLine branch 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.

Be Skeptical
If someone is asking for your personal financial information like account numbers, PINs, security codes or Social Security number, be very wary, particularly if it is over the phone, via email or text. If you’re tempted to trust them, it’s a good idea to do a little research on your own to validate their requests. Call the company by using a phone number you have on records for them – from a statement or the back of a credit or debit card, and search for their company online. If it’s a scam, the website will look questionable or won’t exist, and others may have even posted warnings. TopLine will never contact you via phone, email or text to request personal information.

Watch Credit Card Solicitations
Empty your mailbox quickly so that credit card pitches can’t be filled out in your name. Take your name off of junk mail lists whenever possible to reduce the amount of unwanted mail.

Safekeeping for Your Social Security Number
According to the Social Security Administration, you should not keep your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep your family’s social security cards in a locked, secure location. Once your number is memorized, there is little need for the physical card.

Monitor your Information

Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements on a daily basis, or weekly at a minimum.

If you don’t recognize a charge, contact your banking institution right away. Similarly, check your credit report at least once a year. Visit, or call 1-877-322-8228 to request one. Once you’ve received your credit report, we’d be happy to help you make sense of what you see. Stop by any TopLine branch location or call us at 763-391-9494 to arrange for your free credit report review.

Password Know-How
Passwords for your online banking should be mixed letters, numbers, and characters, and should be changed every few months as a precaution. As cumbersome as it seems, use different passwords for different sites, and don’t leave a written list of passwords around, particularly at your place of work. There are a few helpful add-ons online to store all your passwords, such as LastPass, Sticky Password, LogMeOnce, and more. You can see a helpful review of these and more in an article at

At TopLine, we are committed to helping you protect yourself from Identity Theft. For additional tips and links to more resources, visit TopLine’s Identity Protection resource.
For more information on Internet security, read our blog from June 2016.