BLOG: Identity Theft—Be Prepared
Identity Theft—Be Prepared!
Identity theft happens to more than 17 million people every year. With mounting news reports of breaches involving government databases, major credit reporting agencies, insurance companies, and other businesses—it is increasingly important that consumers know how to protect themselves against identity theft.
You’ll hear often that monitoring your credit is very important to staving off fraud. Did you know you can easily monitor your credit by requesting one free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus? Meaning: you can get 3 free reports each year and continually monitor your credit report. Pull your TransUnion report today, wait a few months; pull your Experian report, wait another few months; pull your Equifax. If you have children, you will also want to monitor their credit as well.
What to watch for on the credit reports:
- Inquiries – this section shows any credit checks that have been done on you. If you see a name and date you do not recognize, contact the agency for more details.
- Accounts Opened – review this section in detail to ensure all open accounts and balances appear legitimate.
You can also place a credit freeze, fraud alert, or active duty alert on your credit file by contacting the three credit bureaus:
- A freeze will lock your credit file to prevent loans or credit cards from being opened without your knowledge. It is important to note that not all financials pull credit to open deposit accounts, so this may not prevent all forms of fraud. Most states offer this for free to victims of identity theft.
- A fraud alert may also be used. While this does not lock your file, you may place an alert on your credit file, prompting a potential creditor to contact you prior to opening an account.
- Active duty alerts can be used by those serving in the military to protect their credit while they are deployed.
For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
What Else Can You Do?
Know your regulations and the Terms and Conditions for your accounts! While we in banking may love to read these, it’s important that consumers also know their rights when it comes to fraud. Consumer protection regulations such as Regulation E, Regulation CC, UCC laws, and NACHA Rules are some of my favorites as they offer great consumer safeguards should you have unauthorized charges on your account, as long as it is detected and reported in a timely manner. The definition of “timely manner” varies by payment type (check, debit card, or electronic), so it is critical that you review your accounts at least monthly. Daily is best. (Did I mention how quick and easy it to do this with our River Valley mobile app?)
Preventing the fraud from
occurring in the first place
is the best course of action."
Of course, preventing the fraud from occurring in the first place is the best course of action. Follow these tips to ensure you are protecting yourself:
- Ensure any banking activity is done on a secure, private computer or device. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
- Never share your account information, PIN number, social security number, or passwords with anyone unless you have initiated the contact.
- Beware of what you click on within emails and even ads on your computer or social media. Never follow links you don’t trust.
- Use strong passwords. As much as possible, try not to use the same password for all of your accounts, and never store them on your computer.
- Only carry your social security card when absolutely necessary. If you have this stored in your purse or wallet, take it out!
- Watch what you put in the mail. Thieves love the little red flag on your mailbox! It’s an open invitation to your account numbers and other personal information. If possible, use postal drop boxes or online banking and bill pay.
- Credit monitoring services can also be a great option, but be sure to do your research prior and pick a reputable company.
- Consider using a reloadable prepaid card for online shopping. This will help prevent unauthorized access to your checking account.
You may have heard these preventive techniques over and over…but how many are you seriously applying to your daily financial practices? Don’t be one of the more than 17 million people every year who gets hit with identify fraud. Protect your identity!