Part 3: Identity Theft
In 2013 Identity Theft was the number one complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission. Over 1.6 billion dollars were lost due to fraud according to American consumers documented by the FTC. Source Identity Theft is rampant through physical and digital means and no one is completely protected from it. As it is a sneaky and slippery crime, it can be as quiet and unassuming as someone opening up credit in your name and paying it, or as life altering and jarring as the police showing up at your home or place of work to arrest you. With that in mind, we have a few tactics you can implement to make sure you are being as safe and secure with your information as possible. We also list some steps you can take if you fall victim to identity theft.
Purchase a cross-cut shredder and utilize it for all documents you are throwing away!
This includes credit card offers, old statements, and paid bills.
Watch out for scams online and in your mailbox!
Pay attention to websites and be suspicious of emails! No organization that functions in banking, mortgages or uses other sensitive data will ask for your account number or social security number by email. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is especially accurate when you’ve “won” a lottery you never entered (particularly from a different country) or when a long lost “great uncle” passes and leaves you a large “inheritance.” Another common scam happens when you are selling products or services and the purchaser sends you a check over the amount you requested. The purchaser then requests that the extra funds be wired to an account and within a week, the check you received will bounce, leaving you with a balance to pay back to your financial institution. Remember, scams can come in through websites, email and regular mail.
Know who you’re talking to!
Don’t give out your social security number, account numbers, passwords, pins, mother’s maiden name, or other personal information by phone unless you have made the call and you know to who and for what purpose you are giving it out. Remember there are several scams looking to get you to call and give your information. Don’t fall prey to these criminals!
Safeguard your personal items, even from those you know!
Friendly fraud is committed by someone the victim knows. This includes family members, friends, housekeepers, repairmen, at-home care providers and maybe even your children’s friends! Safeguard your purses, wallets, checkbooks, cards and account information at home and at work.
Be aware of your surroundings!
Watch out for people standing behind or around you at the ATM. Jiggle the card slider at gas stations, ATMs and vending machines. Thieves use electronic adapters called skimming devices to steal the information from the magnetic strip on your card. If the scanner feels loose, opt out of that payment method.
Don’t let clerks hand write your information on checks. You never know who is looking at your check. Many times checks already have your name and address in addition to your routing and account numbers. Do you really want a stranger to have your social on top of all that?
Know your resources!
Many times victims of identity theft don’t even know they are victims until they are denied credit or banking services. Avoid this surprise by keeping up with your accounts. Read your bank statements monthly. Check your credit report every four months via one of the three credit bureaus.
It happened to me!
If you realize you are a victim of identity theft follow these steps:
- Contact the fraud unit of a credit bureau. You only need to notify one as every credit bureau is required to share this information with the others. This is for your credit report!
- If you know where the theft took place, file a police report there.
- Call your creditors individually and notify them of the situation. Close the breached accounts and document the conversations and send copies of the police report. This is to help you stop the behavior from further damaging your financial wellness.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission hotline (877-IDTHEFT) and speak with a counselor to report the information.
Do you want more information on this topic? Email us at FreeSeminars@InsightCreditUnion.com to request a community seminar in your area! And stay tuned for the final installment of…Hit the Road to Financial Freedom, where we’ll discuss Creditability.