With rapidly advancing technology, everyone is a potential target for identity theft. Whether you use a computer or mobile device for banking transactions, or still bank the old fashioned way, the following tips can help safeguard your personal and financial information.
10 TIPS TO REDUCE RISK OF IDENTITY THEFT
- Examine all financial records frequently and carefully for any unexplained charges, debits, credits, or other activity.
- Request copies of your credit report from all three main credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and examine them for any unexplained accounts opened in your name. Order a free copy of your credit report at Annual Credit Report.com.
- Don't give your personal or financial information to anyone unless there is a legitimate need.
- Never carry your Social Security card. Protect your Social Security Number, driver's license number, credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords, PIN, and other personal information. Do not keep any of these written down in your purse or wallet or stored in your smartphone.
- Set your smartphone to lock after an inactive period, requiring a password to unlock. This makes it difficult for would-be thieves to access your personal information.
- If you use banking or financial apps on your smartphone, do not enable the “remember User ID” or “remember password” options.
- Safeguard incoming and outgoing postal mail; thieves may try to steal credit card bills, offers, and other sensitive mail. If regular bills fail to reach you, call the biller and find out why. Put outgoing mail in a secure mailbox.
- Shred all unwanted mail that has identifying information, especially anything with a bar code or account number, such as subscription magazines.
- Secure financial records and information at home. Keep statements and checks secured, especially when having workers in your home.
- Utilize secure online bill payment and enroll in paperless statements and billing. It eliminates mail and garbage theft, eliminates the need to shred statements, checks, and invoices.
IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
- Immediately notify all financial institutions where you have bank accounts, credit cards, debit/ATM cards, and other accounts. (Be prepared: Keep all toll-free numbers for these institutions, along with account numbers, in a safe place where you can find them quickly when needed.)
- In consultation with your financial institutions, freeze or cancel all credit/debit/ATM cards immediately.
- File a police report immediately, in the jurisdiction in which your identification was stolen. This shows credit providers you were diligent, and it is a first step toward an investigation.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Place a fraud alert with one of the three national credit reporting bureaus. This will let any company that checks your credit know your information was stolen, and they should contact you by phone before authorizing new credit. Note: Free fraud alerts may expire after 90 days; you may wish to consider purchasing an ongoing "security freeze" service with one of the credit bureaus.
IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
- Identity theft hotline at (877) ID THEFT
- Identity theft information
- Stopping unsolicited mail, phone calls, and email: (888) 5-OPTOUT or (888) 567-8688
CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
- Fraud Line: (800) 269-0271