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Financial Education

Tips to Protect Your Identity

October 25, 2014 | Return to Financial Education

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and according to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has topped its list of consumer complaints every year for the last 12 years. 

Identity theft occurs when a criminal obtains and misuses someone’s personal information without permission, typically for financial gain.  For many victims, it can result in drained bank accounts, poor credit, and a damaged reputation.  ID theft can have devastating effects on an individual – that’s why it’s so important that you make sure every precaution is taken to safeguard your personal data.  Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft:

Don’t share your secrets.  Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone.  Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone.  Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.  Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

Shred sensitive papers.  Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail.  Fraudsters look for monthly bank credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information.  Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.  Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

Use online banking to protect yourself.  Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. 

Monitor your credit report.  Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

Protect your computer.  Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date.  When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active.  Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

Protect your mobile device.  Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices.  This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.  Before you donate, sell, or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique.  Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

It is very important to report any suspected fraud immediately.  Be sure to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about identity theft.