Safety Tips That Protect Your Identity
Consumers who take precautionary steps to protect themselves and their identity, and are proactive in their approach to combat identity fraud, are less likely to have their personal information stolen and misused.
Javelin Strategy & Research recommends that consumers follow a three-step approach to minimize their risk and impact of identity fraud.
1. Keep Personal Data Private
- On your social networking profiles, do not contain any personal information that your bank or other company would use to confirm your identity (such as mother’s maiden name, place of birth, name of pet, etc.).
- Use a trusted and secure Internet connection (not a public Wi-Fi hotspot) when transmitting personal or financial information.
- Online login credentials for financial accounts and other important accounts should follow safe password practices by not using easily guessed passwords (such as password1, abc123, a pet name, or a nickname).
- Stay safe offline by keeping personal and financial records securely locked away.
2. Look for Security Features
- Use privacy settings on social networking sites to control who is able to access personal profile information.
- When paying online, does the website list . . . ?
- “https” in the URL, not just http at the start of the merchant’s web address? (e.g,. https://www.store.com) This denotes a secure site.
- Shows a bright green box and padlock graphic in the address bar of most browsers. Check for either one of these before entering personal or payment information.
- Install anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer, and keep it updated along with applications, browsers, and operating systems.
3. Stop Before You Share
- Ask yourself?
- Who is asking for the information? Why do they need it? How is the information being used?
- It is okay to say “NO”.
- If an organization asks you for your Social Security number to validate your identity, request another question
- If volunteering information, ask yourself if you have more to gain or more to lose by sharing personal and unnecessary details.
- Do not respond directly to requests for personal information or account information online, over the phone, in an email, or through my mobile device. Sometimes fraudsters will reach out to consumers through email, phone numbers, or SMS messages in an attempt to get account or personal information.)
- Opt out of preapproved credit offers.
- Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to be removed from credit card applications and other mail that contain personal information.
4. Be Proactive
In 2012, 50% of fraud was detected by the victims who were actively protecting themselves. By monitoring accounts online at bank and credit card websites, consumers can more quickly detect if they are a victim of identity fraud and stop it early.
- Monitor bank and credit card accounts at least weekly via online, mobile, ATM, or touch-tone banking.
- Sign up for security alerts to be sent to your mobile phone and/or email account so that you are notified of changes to your account or personal information. The most common method for fraudsters to take over a victim's account is by changing the physical address
- Free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus (staggered quarterly for year-round monitoring) are available yearly through www.annualcreditreport.comor 877-322-8228.
5. Enlist Others
3 out of 5 fraud victims did not know the source of their fraud.
- Look into services such as ID protection services, credit monitoring, fraud alerts, and credit freezes that provide extra security and convenience for those who don’t want to personally monitor their information. These services can detect potentially fraudulent information from credit reports, public records, and online activity that are difficult to track on your own.
6. Take Any Data Breach Notification Seriously
- If you receive a data breach notification, take it very seriously. 1 out of 4 fraud victims had received a data breach letter. Many who are alerted, fail to take action. We recommend you take the following steps:
- Confirm the letter is legitimate
- Take advantage of any free protection services that are offered by a financial institution or retailer
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert requires lenders to make sure it is actually you applying for credit.
7. Report Problems Immediately
- Immediately contact your bank and credit card companies.
- If your bank provides fraud resolution specialists, ask for their assistance to ensure the fraud is resolved.
- Report all lost or stolen cards and/or fraudulent transactions immediately as the timing of your report of the loss or unauthorized transactions may impact the amount that you are liable for under the law.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report incidents of suspected fraud or identity theft at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
- Consider enrolling in a high-quality ID protection service. Victims who find that their driver’s license numbers or SSNs have been compromised should consider enrolling in ID protection services that monitor credit reports as well as non-credit-related databases for unauthorized use of stolen information.