How to Prevent Identity Theft
11 Steps for Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention
Fraud, it’s something you hear about often, but many people still believe it won’t happen to them. In reality, it can happen to anyone at any time. According to Javelin, 16.7 million US consumers became victims of identity fraud, up eight percent, or one million people, from the prior year. That equates to one in fifteen individuals. What’s even more alarming is that more than one million children were among those victims.
Fraud can have a negative impact on your financial health by lowering your credit scores and costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. By following these simple and practical tips, you can help prevent becoming a victim to fraud and identity theft.
According to IdentityForce, 86 percent of internet users don’t check to make sure they have a secure connection before accessing personal and sensitive information on their computers. This leaves you vulnerable to any hackers who are waiting to steal your personal information. Be sure to password protect your home’s WiFi and always be sure you are on a secured network when logging on away from home. When selecting a network, look for the padlock symbol next to the network name. This lock indicates two levels of security: 1) that data is encrypted as it goes over the wireless network and 2) a password is required to access the network.
In the banking industry you hear about countless individuals who have had to close bank accounts, dispute fraudulent charges and stop payments, all because an opportunistic thief broke into their car and stole their purse or wallet along with their checkbook, driver’s license and credit cards. Keep your purse and wallet with you or safely in your home at all times. Also, don’t carry around sensitive information about you or your family members that you don’t use very often such as your Social Security cards or birth certificates. Keep these locked up in a safe place such as a safe at home or even your bank’s safety deposit box.
70 percent of consumers who reported a fraud-related complaint in 2017 cited the phone as the initial method of contact, according to Experian. A common practice is for fraudsters to pretend to be a representative from your financial institution or other organization who is updating files and needs to verify your personal information such as birth date, social security number, address, etc. If anyone you don’t know or aren’t familiar with calls for this type of information, hang up and call the institution back. Be sure to use a phone number you are familiar with to verify that the request is legitimate.
Along the same lines, if a person or financial institution calls and requests money or other personal information, don’t automatically trust the caller ID. Technology has made it easy for fraudsters to fake caller ID information so the name and number aren’t always real. If you are suspicious, hang up and call the number back and see if the caller is legitimate. Don’t worry about offending the caller, a trustworthy financial institution would encourage and applaud you for taking the necessary steps to protect yourself from fraud.
Similarly, don't respond to email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your account number. Don’t click on links within them either – even if the message looks like it’s from an organization you trust. Legitimate businesses won’t ask you to send account numbers through unsecure channels.
There are numerous scams taking place where an innocent victim is contacted via phone, text or email and told they have won a large sum of money, or that a loved one is in trouble and needs money quickly. The victim is then asked to wire a substantial amount of money to a specific account only to find out later that everything was a scam and that money is lost. If you think things don’t feel right or it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take the necessary steps to validate that the institution or person requesting the money is legitimate.
Before purchasing anything from a company you are not familiar with, do some research to determine their track record. The Better Business Bureau provides consumers with valuable information about a business such as whether or not they are a legitimate business, if they have ethical business practices or if they have complaints against them. Checking with the Better Business Bureau prior to doing business with a new company could save you from falling victim to fraud.
Occasionally fraud results from account information being intercepted through the mail. Thieves have been known to drive through neighborhoods looking for raised flags on mailboxes indicating there is mail for the postal carrier to pick up. Often these are bill payments that contain checking account numbers with a signature that matches the signature on file with the bank - a perfect storm for checking account fraud. To reduce this risk, consider paying bills online. If you must receive and pay bills via the mail, drop off bill payments in a nearby big blue USPS mailbox and shred statements before throwing them away.
A typical child doesn’t have a credit report until their teen years so your young child could be the victim of identity theft and you may not know it for years. This could seriously impact their ability to obtain a credit card or get a loan in the future. By monitoring your child’s credit now, you helping to protect their financial health, just as you would their physical health. Each credit reporting company has a different process for requesting your child’s credit report. Creditcards.com makes it easy by following their step-by-step instructions.
Stay one step ahead of fraudsters by having the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox. Sign up by going to ftc.gov/scams and clicking on “GET EMAIL UPDATES.”
At FNBO we are committed to preventing fraud on our customers’ accounts and helping to mitigate the impact should it occur. Learn more about our Fraud Protection efforts.
If you do find that you have fallen victim to fraud, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you immediately place a fraud alert on your credit report.Read More Insights