Identity theft can result in stress, financial loss and a big chunk of your time spent undoing the damage. The best defense is a good offense: Know what you’re up against and be proactive in following security measures. Below, we provide an overview of what you need to know to keep your personal and financial information secure.
Understand How Thieves Work
Criminals continue to invent innovative ways to get their hands on your personal information. For instance, be aware of these four common tactics:
- Skimmers. Criminals can attach these discreet devices to outdoor ATM machines and gas pumps, capturing your card information through the skimmer’s magnetic strip.
- Phishing. A thief attempts to contact you by phone or email, pretending to be a legitimate financial institution requesting your personal information.
- Phony websites. Criminals set up fake online stores designed to look like the real thing. Once you’ve made a purchase, they have your credit card information.
- Hacking. Thieves break into a computer system (such as a medical, financial or retail business) where they can access — and steal — a large number of customers’ personal and financial information.
The most important step you can take to protect your information is to monitor your accounts closely. It’s a good idea to check your financial accounts weekly and review your credit report annually to confirm that the information is accurate. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies once a year at AnnualCreditreport.com.
Here are some other ways to stay proactive:
- Use strong passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Store passwords in a safe place and change them frequently.
- Avoid sharing personal information like your Social Security number, financial account numbers or other details related to your personal finances unless you’re certain of who you’re sharing it with.
- When buying online, look for the https and padlock icon before transacting. Also be wary of websites with misspelled words, or blurry text or images.
Know the Warning Signs
Keep an eye out for any of these six red flags that could indicate you’ve become a victim of identity theft:
- You receive a bill in the mail for a purchase you didn’t make or get a phone call from a creditor about an unfamiliar debt.
- Your credit or debit card is refused when you attempt to make a purchase.
- You see an unexpected drop in your credit score.
- Unfamiliar transactions show up on bank or credit card statements.
- Unfamiliar accounts are listed on your credit report.
- Errors appear on your medical records.
Ask for Help
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, it’s important to take action quickly. Contact the financial institution related to the discrepancy. Next, contact the three credit reporting agencies and place an initial fraud alert on your report. Finally, file an identity theft report on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. The sooner you notice a problem and begin taking steps to correct it, the faster you’ll be able to fix it.
We take the security of your personal and financial information seriously. For more advice on keeping your accounts secure, visit with an experienced banker at one of our convenient locations or call us at 800-228-0392.