Every two seconds an American becomes a victim of identity theft. You don’t want to become another statistic. If the thought of having to clean up your credit report because someone stole your identity frightens you, consider these tips to stack the odds in your favor:
- A winning night can turn into a nightmare really fast if your wallet is lost or stolen, especially if personal information like your social security card is in there. Don’t carry your social security card and make sure you have copies of all your cards. That way you can report them stolen quickly and accurately.
- You can bet that if you use easy-to-guess passwords and PINS—like your house number or birth date—some hacker will figure it out. Use a mix of symbols and numbers and both upper and lower case letters.
- Use your instinct. If an overly generic e-mail address doesn’t look legit, don’t reply, and don’t click on any links. Go to your account log-ins manually using a bookmark, or typing the URL.
- Know that your credit union will never call or e-mail asking for your social security number or birth date. If a business or individual asks for personal information, passwords, or credit card numbers--do not give them out. Instead, call the financial institution requesting that information using a number you know is legitimate.
- Make sure all your electronic devices are as secure as possible by updating your operating systems, software and browsers. Being up-to-date will minimize the chance of being hacked. Password-protect all of your devices to make logging in difficult if they are stolen.
- Shred, shred, shred. Yes, some of the easiest targets for identity thieves are home trash bins. Shred invoices, financial statements, or any other personal documents.
- Check your online banking accounts and credit reports regularly. There are three credit-reporting bureaus for analyzing your activity. Check a different bureau every four months – just look up “annual credit reports” online and you’ll see a link to the site Annual Credit Reports. If you see anything suspicious, report it immediately.
Follow all these steps and your odds of being a victim of identity theft will drop dramatically.
© Credit Union National Association