Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Every two seconds, another American is the victim of identity fraud. One in five of those victims has experienced it more than once. While the threat of identity theft may feel ever looming, we’re arming you with eight steps you can take to protect your identity:

1. Check your credit report periodically.

Staying up-to-date and informed is your biggest line of defense. One free credit report is provided by each of the three credit bureaus once a year. In other words, you are eligible to receive a report at the new year, in the middle, and at the end. Periodic checking allows you to notice unusual activity as soon as posible and put a stop to it.

2. Make sure to update your antivirus software.

If you don’t stay up-to-date with antivirus software, you leave yourself open as a target.  Protect your identity by routinely checking for updates. In addition, (and though it’s inconvenient), checking “no” when asked if you’d like a website to remember your password or keep you logged in is worth the extra security.

3. Make privacy a top priority while surfing the web.

Lock and password-protect everything – Yes, this means changing that password you use for every account you’ve got! Always look for a “lock” icon at the top of your browser, which indicates the site you’re using is secure. And, while that free public WiFi sure is convenient, it’s not always protected and can leave you open to hackers awaiting your log-on. 

Hackers also use phishing emails to reach your data. Always confirm you know the sender and were expecting their email before opening.

4. Check your online banking account(s) every day.

This one goes hand-in-hand with staying informed about your credit report. It’s also a good idea to safeguard your accounts with ID Theft Protect (at Altana, you always have the option to opt-in for Identity Theft Protection!). 

6. Don’t send bills from your mailbox.

Yes, thieves can target your physical mailbox – also going as far as filling out a false change of address form on your behalf! Always take outgoing mail to a post office and check your mailbox regularly to lessen the chances a thief has to snoop.

Now’s a good time to get signed up for eStatements! They are an effective and secure way to reduce the private information that lands in your mailbox. Similarly, this be done for utitity bills through your provider – we’re major advocates for eStatements.

7. Don’t forget to protect your kids!

Unfortunately, even kiddos aren’t safe from identity threats. More than 1 million children were affected by identity theft in 2017. Two-thirds of child identity theft victims are under 8, with 20% aged 8-12 and 14% aged 13-17. It’s harder to catch threats to children because, unlike adults, children aren’t applying for loans or opening credit cards and therefore don’t review their credit report checks.

TransUnion offers a free Child Identity Theft Inquiry to help prevent undiscovered fraud.

8. Keep secret your Social Security Number.

Know the difference between which entities require your Social Security number, and which entities will abuse it. Your employers and financial institutions need it for wage and tax reporting, and you may be asked for it when applying for credit or renting an apartment. If you’re suspicious of an entity, ask them questions; why they need it, how it is put to use, how they protect the information, and what happens if you don’t share it.

Knowing how to prevent identity theft is the first step to keeping you and your family safe. Here are additional links where you can learn more and keep your family safe:

My Credit Union Prevention Center

FDIC – You can Fight Identity Theft

FTC – Recovering from Identity Theft

Protecting your Social Security Number from Threat

OCC Protection against Identity Fraud