The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported that fraud-related losses have increased by over 70% between 2020 and 2021, with 1.4 million identity theft reports. Identity theft not only incurs high expenses but also causes significant inconvenience as you try to undo the damage caused by the thieves. To prevent becoming a victim, here is what you should know.
Tips for preventing identity fraud
Protecting your personal information is crucial as it can be exploited by criminals to carry out various fraudulent activities like opening a bank or credit card account, applying for a loan, filing taxes, or setting up a utility account. To safeguard your data, here are some vital steps to follow:
1. Please be vigilant for any potential phishing or spoofing scams.Many of us are cautious about clicking on links in emails due to the prevalence of phishing scams. However, we may not be as vigilant when receiving phone calls or text messages from numbers that appear to be from our bank, known as spoofing. If someone requests personal information, it is best to inform them that you will contact the bank directly and terminate the call, then reach out to the bank yourself. Please note that NY TEAM will never ask for your account or card details, PIN verification, or other sensitive information via text message.
2. Don’t routinely use your Social Security number.Many companies, including healthcare organizations, may request your Social Security number as a form of identification. However, you can ask if there is a different identifying number you can provide instead. It is also important to avoid carrying your Social Security card in your purse or wallet and keep it secure until it is needed.
3. It’s essential also to protect your child’s personal information.Identity thieves often target children’s personal information, which can be used for a long time without being noticed. It’s possible that you may not even realize that your child’s identity has been stolen until they apply for a job or take out a student loan. Watch for warning signs, such as receiving bills or calls from a collection agency regarding an account you didn’t open. Make sure to review both your child’s and your own statements regularly.
4. Be careful with your mail.It’s essential to collect your mail regularly and shred any personal information before recycling it, as thieves may use it to access sensitive data. Consider requesting electronic statements instead, which helps the environment and eliminates the risk of a paper trail.
5. Use strong passwords.Create solid and intricate passwords for all online accounts and devices for heightened security, and change them frequently. You can also enable two-step authentication, which involves entering a code via email or text after typing in your password. This adds an extra layer of protection against potential thieves. Additionally, avoid utilizing the autofill feature or saved passwords when entering passwords on websites or apps.
6. Regularly review your credit report.Taking the time to check your credit report will allow you to monitor any suspicious activity.Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, which offers free weekly online reports from the three credit bureaus. Remember to check your child’s credit report regularly as you do your own.
7. Monitor all your accounts.It’s essential to regularly monitor your financial and medical accounts to ensure you can identify all transactions. If you notice any suspicious charges, it’s best to report them immediately.
Do you need identity theft protection?In addition to care and vigilance, there are ways to help protect your accounts. Here are several to consider:
-Put a fraud alert on your account.Financial institutions, including ours, will send you a text message if there is any suspicious activity on your accounts. This service is free, but you may have to pay charges from your wireless carrier. You can also receive text alerts for credit cards and other accounts. However, be careful if a text alert asks you to click on a suspicious link and provide login credentials. If you bank with NY TEAM FCU and receive a text from us, you can always call us to confirm its validity.
-Freeze your credit.When you place a credit freeze, it limits others from viewing your credit report. If someone tries to open a credit account using your name, the credit bureaus will inform them that your credit report is frozen, and the lender will need to contact you before approving the application. It’s worth noting that the credit freeze also affects you, and you’ll need to “unfreeze” your credit when applying for a new loan or account. The good news is that there’s no cost involved. Contact the three credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to sign up.
-Consider a paid identity theft protection service.To safeguard your personal information from being misused, you can avail additional services that monitor the web. Apart from checking your credit report for free, these services come in various levels that offer identity-theft insurance and remediation services. However, it’s essential to note the monthly or annual fees and what they cover before committing.
What to do if you’ve been a victim of identity fraudIdentity fraud is a severe threat that can affect anyone, even those who are very careful with their personal information. If you suspect you have been a victim of identity fraud, it’s crucial to take action immediately. Here are some steps you can take:
– Contact your bank and credit card issuers immediately to ensure your other accounts haven’t been compromised.- Get in touch with the companies where the fraud occurred and request that they close the account.- Ask for written confirmation that you have contacted them and are not responsible for any charges. If necessary, you can use this as evidence when reporting fraud to credit agencies.- Contact the three credit agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax to report unauthorized use of your identity and let them know about charges you have had removed.- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
It is crucial to safeguard your financial information from identity theft. To do so, consider utilizing the resources mentioned above proactively.
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