Stopping Identity Theft: How To Protect Your Identity
Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized person uses your personal identifying information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, credit card, or bank account information to assume your identity to commit fraud or other criminal acts. This can include using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund.
Knowing how to prevent identity theft and how to protect yourself from identity theft begins with being aware of how identity theft happens.
Identity theft can happen when a lost purse or wallet is picked up by someone who then uses your credit cards; it can happen when an identity thief places a credit card “skimmer” on a gas station fuel pump to collect your information when you swipe your credit card; or if there’s a data breach at a retailer or business where you’ve used your credit card, and your personal information is accessed.
How to protect yourself from identity theft is easy when you become vigilant when using your ATM debit and credit cards, and by being careful about the personal information you share and how you share it.
Credit Union of Southern California’s (CU SoCal) identity theft protection services are designed for stopping identity theft, and are some of the most advanced protections in the consumer finance market.
In this article we’ll provide important information on how to stop identity theft, how to protect yourself from identity theft, and how to protect your identity online.
For over 60 years, the Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) has been providing sound financial advice to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and Los Angeles County, and is the fastest growing credit union in Southern California.
For more information regarding our data and privacy protection services, please don’t hesitate to call us at 866.287.6225 to schedule a no-obligation consultation!
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your:
- Name and address
- Credit card/ATM card
- Bank account numbers
- Social Security number
- Medical insurance account numbers
- Drivers license
How Is an Identity Compromised?
Identity is compromised when your personal information is lost or stolen and falls into the hands of hackers, thieves, or other people who commit crimes using the personal information they’ve found.
Identity is also compromised when someone intentionally accesses and uses your personal information without your permission.
According to the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG), identity thieves can steal personal information directly or indirectly by:
- Stealing wallets and purses containing identification cards, credit cards and bank information.
- Stealing mail including credit and bank statements, phone or utility bills, new checks, and tax information.
- Completing a “change of address form” to redirect the destination of your mail.
- Rummaging through your trash for discarded personal data, in a practice known as “dumpster diving.”
- Taking personal information that you share or post on the Internet.
What Can A Thief Do With My Identity?
An identity thief can use your name and information to:
- Make purchases with your credit cards
- Use your ATM card to withdraw money from your bank accounts
- Get new credit cards
- Open a phone, electricity, or gas account
- Steal your tax refund
- Get medical care
- Pretend to be you if they are arrested
Best Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Stopping identity theft becomes easy when you know what to do and who to trust with your information.
Because there's an ever-growing number of ways identity thieves, hackers, and criminals can commit fraud, CU SoCal is dedicated to adopting ways to prevent identity theft and keeping its members’ information secure through encryption and other security technology.
How to prevent identity theft and how to protect your identity online are questions more and more people and business owners are asking these days.
The best protection is to stay vigilant and follow these tips on how to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud:
1. Protect Your Personal Records
- Shred bills, bank and credit card statements, medical information, and personal records containing account information, before placing them in the trash.
- Don’t leave mail sitting in your mailbox, where thieves could access it.
- Don’t share information with unknown sources
- Consider getting a safe deposit box or a home safe.
2. Protect Your Personal Information Online
- Use an encrypted name for your home Wi-Fi network.
- Shop from websites that are secure (have “https” in the URL).
- Set your computer’s security and privacy settings to the strictest level.
- Keep passwords private.
- Use security software optimized for your computer’s operating system.
3. Be Careful with What You Carry
- Don’t keep your debit card in your wallet or purse, unless you need it that day.
- Don’t carry your checkbook with you every.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- Keep photocopies or scans (of both front and back) of your IDs, including your driver’s license and passport, credit and debit cards—so if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can act quickly by having the information handy.
4. Protect Your Social Security Number
- Don't write your number down, enter it in a non-secure website, or send it over public Wi-Fi.
- Be alert to who may be watching or listening when you give your number to customer service representatives.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
5. Use Unique Passwords and Change Them Regularly
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess.
- Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its database.
- Consider using a password manager app for creating and storing your passwords and security questions.
6. Be Mindful of Data Breaches
- A data breach is a security violation in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so.
- If a company you do business with alerts you to a data breach, contact each of the three main credit bureaus and ask that a fraud alerts or credit freeze be placed on your credit reports.
- Take advantage of free credit monitoring, identity theft protection, or identity restoration services, which are usually offered by companies that experience a data breach that has affected your personal information.
7. Protect Yourself Against Tele-Theft
- Don’t fall for phone or text message scams. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not disclose any personal information, including your name, address, account numbers, names of financial institutions, or other sensitive information.
- Don’t believe threats that require you to send money or disclose account information. Reputable collection agencies or other creditors will never threaten consumers.
8. Protect Your Computer
Now more than ever it’s important to know how to protect your identity online:
- Install security software, such as s spyware blocker, antivirus program, or firewall on your personal computer to prevent viruses, malware (malicious software), and other hacks. Mac and PC users have different security options. Be sure to research the best option for your computer’s operating system.
- Use strong passwords that people cannot guess, and don’t share your passwords.
- Do not enter personal information on computers in public spaces, like the library or workplace.
9. Be Careful When Traveling
- Notify your credit card providers that you will be traveling and to what cities or countries, so they can monitor your card usage and alert you to any suspicious transactions.
- Use the hotel room safe (if available) for your passport and other documents.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport when leaving the hotel, instead of the actual Passport.
- Bring a spare wallet to hold small cash amounts for day trips to flea markets or shopping.
10. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
- A fraud alert blocks would-be thieves from opening accounts in your name, by warning businesses to confirm your identity before moving forward with an application. Once an alert is placed, potential creditors are required to contact you and obtain permission to open new accounts or lines of credit.
- Consumers are allowed, by law, to report they are an identity theft victim and file a fraud alert (aka, a “security alert”) every 90 days. With proper documentation, such as a police report, the fraud alert period may be extended to seven years.
To place a fraud alert, consumers should contact one of the first three Credit Reporting Agencies (Bureaus) listed below. The bureau you contact is required to contact the other two; consumers must contact the fourth bureau directly to place an alert.
Equifax: 800-525-6285 or go here
Experian: 888-397-3742 or go here
TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or go here
Innovis: call 800-540-2505 or go here
11. Monitor Your Accounts Online
- Always monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity by logging in and reviewing recent transactions.
- Read all statements thoroughly, looking at charges, fees and vendor names.
- If you notice any suspicious or unusual purchases, immediately contact your credit union or bank.
What to do if Your Identity Is Compromised
- Contact all of your credit card providers to make them aware, so they can put a “freeze” on your cards and issue new ones.
- Change the affected logins, passwords and PINS for your accounts.
- Report the problem to the Credit Bureaus listed above in item 10 and ask to place a free, one-year fraud alert.
- You may report the incident to your local police department.
- Contact IdentityTheft.gov, the U.S. federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
There are numerous ways to prevent identity theft and knowing how to prevent identity theft can save you money and prevent the painful and time-consuming consequences of a stolen identity.
Financial institutions have several anti-theft and security measures in place for stopping identity theft and keeping your accounts secure.
At CU SoCal, our Rewards Checking Account
offers advanced identity theft and monitoring services
free of charge.
Contact CU SoCal for a Free Account Security Consultation
CU SoCal protects the security and integrity of the information you share with us in the following ways: We monitor our online services 24/7, use a domain name that is secured, use protected website host, and ensure that encrypted for each and every online banking transaction is encrypted.
For more information regarding our Privacy Protection Services, please don’t hesitate to call us at 866.287.6225 to schedule a no-obligation consultation!