7 Tips to Avoid Identity Theft
Every two seconds an American becomes a victim of identity theft. If the thought of having to clean up your credit report because someone stole your identity frightens you, and you don’t want to become another statistic; here are some tips to stack the odds in your favor.
1. A winning night, can turn into a nightmare really fast if your wallet is lost, or stolen, especially if personal information like your social security card is in there. Do not carry your social security card in your wallet. Your social security card among other documents such as birth certificates and passports should be stored in a safe place and only taken out when needed. Be sure if you do find that you are unable to locate your wallet that you notify your financial institutions and credit bureau immediately.
Members also have access to financial apps like CardValet that allow you to stay in complete control of your card. In the case your card is lost or stolen you have the ability to turn your credit or debit card off until you locate it again to safeguard yourself against fraud. CardValet also informs you of potential fraudulent activity on your cards with alerts on attempted or declined transactions.
2. You can bet that if you use easy-to-guess passwords and PINS—like your house number, or birth date—some hacker will figure it out. Use a mix of symbols and numbers, and upper and lowercase letters to create your password. A good tactic is use a short phrase to base your password around like “across the sea”. Using the previous suggestions, “across the sea” becomes “@cr0ssth3C”. If you must use multiple passwords for work or for your personal life, consider using websites like LastPass that help you create strong and secure passwords. LastPass also saves passwords for you, so you will not have to tirelessly remember each one when you are visiting different websites.
3. Use your instinct. If an overly generic e-mail address doesn’t look legit, don’t reply, and don’t click on any links. Go to your account log-ins manually using a bookmark, or typing the URL.
4. Know that your credit union will never call, or e-mail asking for your social security number, or birth date. If a business, or individual asks for personal information, passwords, or credit card numbers–do not give them that information. Instead, call any financial institution requesting information directly at a number you know is legitimate. Keep in mind if a representative does need to look into your account they will have to verify your identity by requesting your account number, last 4 numbers of your social, or a secret password you have set up on your account.
5. Make sure all your electronic devices are as secure as possible by updating your operating systems, software and browsers; being up-to-date will minimize chances of being hacked. And, password-protect all of your devices, so that if stolen, logging in will be more difficult.
6. Shred. Yes, some of the easiest targets for identity thieves are home trash bins. Shred invoices, financial statements, or any other personal type documents. Don’t just toss them; shred them.
7. Check your online banking accounts and credit reports regularly. There are three credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion…a trifecta for analyzing your activity. Check a different bureau every four months at annualcreditreports.com. If you see anything suspicious, report it.
If you do find your information has been compromised in any way, sign up for an Identity Theft Protection to automatically monitor your accounts and help you recover from an identity theft incident. We offer ProtectMyID from Experian to our members at a discounted price of $10.35/month. If you have a Partner Paramount Checking account, you can also take advantage of ID theft insurance through Extras Benefits. Contact our Call Center at (303) 340-3343 for more information about Extras Benefits or to enroll in the program.
Follow all these steps, and your odds of being a victim of identity theft will drop dramatically. If you want a more in-depth look on what you can do to protect your identity and what to do in the event your personal information has been stolen, come to our Financial Literacy Seminar: Identity Theft. It will be held at out Fitzsimons Branch on Oct. 12th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Be sure to register for your spot today!