How to prevent identity theft
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) millions of people have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft can wreak havoc on your life and your credit, but there are steps you can take to help prevent it and ways to recover from it if it happens to you.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identification information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or any other identifying information to commit fraud. Your information might be used to obtain additional credit, establish bank accounts or make purchases, all in your name, leaving you on the hook for debts you didn’t accrue.
There are many ways identity thieves can gain access to your information. For example, they might acquire it through blatant theft, such as hacking into data systems and stealing personal information, or they might obtain it through trickery by convincing people to give away their information in a phishing scam.
The good news is there are some simple actions you can take that can help you prevent your identity from being used for someone else’s financial gain at your expense.
Ways to help prevent identity theft:
Shred any documents containing personal information.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't write it on any public documents and don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. When asked for your SSN for identification purposes, request that a different identifier be used if possible.
- Don't give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless it is a trusted source that you know. This is especially true if you did not initiate the contact. It could be a phishing scam.
- Don't send any personal information when using public Wi-Fi. It’s usually not secure.
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails or respond to unsolicited text messages, especially if they request personal information, passwords or PINs. No financial institution will ask you to verify account information this way. Instead, contact the company or financial institution directly to report the incident.
- Create passwords that would be difficult to guess. Incorporate numbers, symbols and capitalization — even sentences if possible.
- Opt for multifactor authentication when possible and choose text code retrieval instead of email code retrieval when given the choice.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place, especially if others have access to your home.
What to do if your personal information has been stolen
1. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be put on your file. That bureau will notify the other two bureaus on your behalf. These alerts tell creditors to contact you before any new accounts are opened or existing ones are changed. If you don’t receive a confirmation, follow up.
2. Close all accounts that may have been compromised. When opening new accounts, create new and unique passwords and PINs.
4. File an ID theft complaint with the local police department. Have a copy of your FTC complaint with you for reference. Be sure to obtain a copy of the completed complaint so you can file it with the three credit bureaus and your relevant creditors. The FTC complaint can be used as a backup.
More information on ID theft, prevention and recovery is available on the FTC's identity theft website.
Are your fraud and account alerts turned on?
Make sure you’re notified of any suspicious activity on your WSECU accounts by setting up fraud and account alerts.