There’s only one you. But it’s no secret there are countless criminals out there doing their best to get information that allows them to profit from pretending they’re you – aka stealing your identity. Ask anybody who’s had to piece their financial and professional life back together after being a victim of identity theft and they’ll tell you it’s totally worth it to take these important steps to avoid having it happen to you.
How to Avoid Identity Theft Scams
Scammers are constantly dreaming up new variations, but at the heart of every identity theft is someone using your name, Social Security number, account numbers, or other private information to commit fraud or other crimes. Sometimes they’re stealing directly from you, like emptying your checking account, and sometimes they’re committing fraud by making unauthorized charges to your credit card, or claiming government benefits, opening credit cards or taking out loans in your name. No matter what form it takes, identity theft can make a mess of your credit rating and take a huge financial, emotional and physical toll. Here are some tips to help you avoid falling for an identity theft scam.
- Know who you’re dealing with. Remember, a real business or organization (like your credit union) will never contact you out of the blue and ask you for sensitive information like your account login.
- Delete suspicious emails and text messages. Never reply, download attachments, or click on links for unsolicited communications, even if the sender claims to be a business you know. Any of these actions can risk opening your device to malware.
- Verify questionable calls or messages. Anytime you receive a call or message you’re not sure about, contact the company directly (via the contact information on their website) to check if the email, text or phone call is genuine.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is. It’s old-timey advice, but still relevant. Be skeptical of any message with outsized promises. On the flip side, do your research before giving to unfamiliar charitable causes.
More Tips to Prevent Identity Theft
In addition, there are lots of easy ways to make yourself a harder target for identity theft criminals. Here are some tips everyone can try.
- Use strong passwords for all accounts. Let’s repeat that – use strong passwords – because it’s that important! Since it’s risky to use the same password for different accounts, also consider using a password manager that will store and help you create individual, tough passwords for each account. This option means you’ll only have to remember a single, master password. And when possible, choose biometric options, like fingerprint reading or facial recognition, to unlock your devices.
- Keep your apps and operating systems updated. Hackers work nonstop to find ways to bypass security, so set your devices to automatically keep apps and operating systems updated. It’s also a good idea to delete any unused apps. It frees up room on your device and cuts down on ways someone can get your You can also use an app that scans and protects against malware. There are lots of options, so check Apple’s App Store® or the Google Play™ Store for one that’s compatible with your device.
- Check your accounts regularly. With digital banking, it’s easy to monitor your accounts in real time, so log in regularly to check activity on your accounts. You might also want to set up some special alerts to let you know, for example, about any charges to your account or charges exceeding a specific dollar amount.
- Use a mobile wallet. You lighten your load and make it more difficult for fraudsters to steal your account information when you add your debit and credit cards to your phone’s mobile wallet. Mobile wallets can also be used to easily store and protect things like store loyalty cards, concert tickets, and, in some states, even your state-issued ID.
- Be wary of public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi can be convenient, but use it with caution since it can make it easier for hackers to access to your device. For sure, never do online banking or send sensitive information over a public hot spot because you never know who is watching.
- Watch for shoulder surfers. Anytime you’re in public and using an app that requires a password, you open the door for fraudsters to secretly watch what you’re doing. If they can see where and how you log in, they can use that information themselves, so be mindful of strangers and your surroundings generally.
- Minimize and protect your mail. Paper documents are vulnerable to mailbox thieves, so opt for online statements and electronic communications whenever possible. If you’re going on vacation, have the post office suspend delivery while you’re gone so items don’t sit in your mailbox. And when you’re disposing of sensitive documents like old statements and tax returns, be sure to shred them.
- Monitor your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion™. Go to com to get yours.
What to Do if You’ve Been Victimized
If you think you’ve been a victim, the sooner you act the better you’ll be able to minimize the damage. Go to the IdentityTheft.gov website to report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and get a personal recovery plan. And, of course, any time you suspect fraud or think criminals have targeted your BluPeak Credit Union account, contact us right away.
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Mobile and data rates apply when using Mobile Banking.
The App Store, Touch ID and Face ID are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc. Alexa is a trademark of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Equifax is a registered trademark of Equifax Inc. Experian is a registered trademark of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. TransUnion is a trademark of Trans Union LLC.