Protecting Your Identity

What Is Identity Theft? 

ID Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and it can happen to anyone if they’re not careful. Making matters worse, it takes identity theft victims 12 months to realize that they have been victimized. Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains your personal information — such as your Social Security number, bank account number, or other identification — and uses it repeatedly to open new accounts or initiate transactions in your name. For example, someone might do a combination of the following: open new credit cards, open new bank accounts, forge checks, and even apply for loans using your name and personal information. This can cause financial loss and damage your credit, which can lead to a lengthy resolution process.  

How Does ID Theft Occur? 

While thieves can obtain personal information via online methods, the majority of identity theft occurs offline. Stealing wallets and purses, intercepting or rerouting your mail, and rummaging through your garbage are some of the common tactics that thieves can use to obtain personal information. Identity theft is also a high-tech crime affecting those people who shop, communicate, or do business online.  Common schemes included phishing (using forged emails to obtain sensitive information) and spoofing (requesting you to update information through a link in an email that will connect you to a web page or login that appears to belong to the company mentioned in the email - but it does not).  The good news is that the more information you have about identity theft the better your defense.

Prevention Tips

  • Keeping your personal information from falling into the wrong hands will help you from becoming another identity theft victim.
  • Utilize paperless options when available.
  • Immediately report lost or stolen credit cards and debit cards.
  • Don't keep your social security card in your wallet.
  • Never write down your PIN or password; commit them to memory.
  • Never provide your personal information to anyone who contacts you through a phone solicitation.
  • Check your bills and bank statements as soon as they arrive. Or if you have online access to your accounts, check them regularly. 
  • Don't open emails from senders you don't know and never click on a link contained in a suspicious email.
  • Change your Online Banking login information at least every 60 days.
  • Keep your web browser and operating system up to date.
  • Install, use and update anti-virus software.
  • Use a personal firewall and pop-up blocker. 
  • Shred sensitive data before discarding.

Monitor Your Credit Report

Visit: AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled to receive one free credit report from the big three credit bureaus every 12 months. When you receive your credit report, look for anything suspicious, i.e. accounts opened under your name that you are unaware of. If you notice anything suspicious, contact the credit bureaus immediately and consider placing a fraud alert on your reports.

  • Equifax — 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian — 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion — 1-800-680-7289

If Your Identity Is Compromised

While these tips are designed to protect you, even the most dilligent person is at risk. Should you ever become a victim of ID Theft, contact us and we will help you through the process of notifying the proper agencies and organizations.