We’ve heard the stories in the news – identity thieves stealing personal information through phishing scams, card skimmers, or computer malware. Some thieves are even gathering information via social media, hiding equipment inside gas pumps, and by vandalizing secure mailboxes.
It may seem overwhelming to watch every bank account, every credit card statement, and every email you receive. But now more than ever, it’s important to be vigilant in protecting your personal information, and keeping an eye out for your friends or loved ones that could be targets. This article offers tips on how you can protect your identity and financial information.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity thieves could use your computer, regular mail or email, wire transfers, banking or credit card information, or even medical records to gather that information. They then use it to run up your credit cards (or start new ones in your name), empty out bank accounts, establish services in your name like cell phones or wireless services, or take out loans to buy big-ticket items.
Here’s some steps you can take today to protect your identity and financial information. Because once compromised, it’s a long and difficult process to make things right.
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
- Strengthen your existing usernames and passwords for your online accounts. It’s much harder for thieves to decode your password if you use random combinations of numbers, letters, and special characters than if you use your pet’s name or your birthdate. Also, change them often to keep thieves off the trail.
- It’s fun to share information via social media about upcoming vacations or special occasions. But that’s a perfect way for thieves to get information about when you may be out of town, or to find out your birthdate, then use it to gain access to your personal information. Post pictures of your dream vacation after you return home, never take photos of expensive possessions to share with others (such as that new big-screen TV or computer), and be cautious about who you “friend.” Even if your social media settings are private, others can still unintentionally share it with their followers.
- “Skimming” is when thieves attach readers to places where you insert your card, such as gas pumps and ATMs. Educate yourself to deter these kinds of crimes – news stories will often let you know when there’s an increase in these types of crimes. When in doubt, go inside the gas station or into your financial institution to finish your transaction.
- Don’t throw receipts, bank statements, or other sensitive documents in the trash without shredding them first. Thieves can dig through trash and gather enough information to start overtaking your identity. Keep a cross-cut shredder near your trash can so you can quickly and safely dispose of your personal information, as well as credit card or loan offers that come in the mail.
- Speaking of “snail mail,” be sure to keep it safe. Consider getting a locking mailbox or a post office box. When heading out of town, let the post office hold your mail until you return. If you’re expecting packages, reschedule them during your time away, or ask a trustworthy neighbor to hold on to them.
- The old sayings still apply in the modern world. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is. And nothing is ever free. Be wary of emails, links, mobile device apps, or unsolicited phone calls – both for yourself and for loved ones who may be easily convinced to share information. Frequently check banking and credit card statements, and remember that everyone is entitled to receive one free credit report annually from the three major credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com, which is the only website approved by the federal government.
How We Can Help
At Nusenda Credit Union, your financial well-being comes first and foremost. That means that we implement multiple layers of security above and beyond state and federal standings, ensuring the highest standards in secure online banking and privacy protection.
While it’s important to follow the tips above, as a Nusenda member you can rely on our top-notch suspicious activity monitoring systems. If something looks wrong to us, we’ll verify purchases or block your account to protect you from fraud. Thanks to Visa’s Zero Liability Policy, your signature-based card transactions are protected, and our fraud resolution services are stepping stones to get you quickly back on track if your accounts are compromised.
You can optimize your identity protection by purchasing additional products and services. Nusenda Credit Union offers a 25-percent discount to members with checking accounts for Core Identity Protection™, Identity Fraud Gold, or Identity Fraud Platinum packages. These additional services provide additional layers of security, such as insurance, encryption software, and 24/7 social security number or credit bureau monitoring. And as always, you can contact us with any questions or concerns via phone, secure email or chat, or by visiting one of our branches.