Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person’s personal identifying information. Often, identity thieves will use another person’s personal information, such as a Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, or account number to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans.
Here are a few basic steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:
Stay Secure Online and Over the Phone
- Protect your PINs and Security Questions. Avoid using information that has been shared (or can be discovered) on social media such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your pet’s name, school mascot, etc.
- Use Unique Passwords Reset and create passwords which are complex and unique from accounts held elsewhere (other financial institutions, email accounts, online retailers, etc).
- Keep It Personal When resetting or creating new passwords, do so from your own personal computer, smartphone or tablet. (Do not make these changes on public or shared computers).
- Do not share sensitive information, such as account numbers or social security numbers, over the telephone, through the mail, or over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing. Remember, SF Fire Credit Union will never contact you to obtain your account/credit card number.
Safeguard Your Email Accounts
Many people save sensitive information and documents in their email systems, which can be used by Identity Theft Criminals to commit fraud.
- Be Wise About Wi-Fi Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
- Avoid Phishing Emails Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type.
- Protect yourself Use firewall software to protect computer information. Be sure to keep virus and spyware software updated and current.
Check the Status of Your Tax Return Filings
- Make Sure Your Website is Secure To protect personal data when e-filing taxes, experts suggest users look for clues that the website you are using is encrypted. Most browsers display either green in the browser bar, or a closed lock symbol, that shows users the site is secure.
- File Your Taxes on Time Experts suggest you file your taxes as soon as possible. This decreases the ability of cyber criminals to file in your name.
- Do Your Research Visit the IRS website to learn more about protecting yourself from this type of fraud. More information is available at https://www.irs.gov/uac/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft
Monitor Your Credit Report
- Make it a habit to check your credit. Free annual credit reports are available from all three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion. one report from each agency over the course of the year, to monitor for any unusual activity. (For example: Request Experian in February, Equifax in July and Transunion in November).
- Learn more about free credit reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com
If You Suspect Fraud is Taking Place
- If your accounts have been compromised, notify us as soon as possible. Our Contact Center can be reached at 1.888.499.FIRE (3473), and is available Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7AM and 8PM (Pacific).
- Place a verbal password on your accounts to prevent thieves from calling in and finding out more about your financial transactions.
- File a police report and maintain a copy in your file for future reference.
- Keep an eye out for future attempts. Identity Thieves often will lay low for months and then strike again, hoping to catch you off guard.