Identity theft and fraud
Identity theft and fraud are scary situations to process. The thought of a stranger using your private information, pretending to be you and making purchases or applying for credit under your name is stressful, to put it lightly. Read on to learn the signs of identity theft and what can be done to prevent it.
First, what is identity theft, really?
Identity theft is a deceptive, illegal practice in which a person uses another individual’s personal information to misrepresent or impersonate that person, usually for money.
What are some of the signs of fraud or identity theft?
- You get a call from your financial institution to confirm transactions you did not conduct.
- You get a call from a collection agency that you don’t recognize.
- New credit cards come in the mail or appear on your credit report that you never applied for.
- You get unexpected declines for loan or mortgage applications despite your good credit history.
- You receive an address or phone number change notification out of the blue.
- Your ID, debit card or credit cards are reported stolen or lost.
Sound like a nightmare? We agree. Should you experience any of these signs make sure you contact your financial institution immediately to develop a game plan to prevent fraud. Each institution might have different steps on how, but know the steps are there to help you get back on your feet.
How can you prevent identity theft or fraud?
Never share your social security number
Your social security number (SSN) is the key to your financial life. It’s used everywhere — from filing taxes to applying for your first home mortgage. This number should be guarded (like you guard your cheat donut from your trainer) and only shared with the appropriate institutions after you verify their legitimacy. As in, make sure the person asking for your SSN actually works for the institution they say they do. And if you receive an email requesting your SSN or other personal information, do not respond and call the institution directly.
Nowadays we’re comfortable sharing everything with our social networks. But be smart about what you share. Although you would never share your SSN, the information you provide could still make you a victim of identity theft. Knowing the ins and outs of your privacy settings on social media is essential. For example, your Facebook profile might list your real first and last name, cell phone number, hometown and current town of residence. That’s a good start on a credit application.
Beef up your passwords
Creating a strong password is your first step, protecting it is the next. Best practice is to use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, a number and a special character, if permitted. Avoid using the same passwords for social accounts and financial institutions. We know you’re very smart, savvy, gifted, etc., but as a reminder, don’t make your passwords too easy, like your home phone number or birthday. Or “password”.
Shred it all
Shred all documents that feature your personal information. Your financial institution or community might host a shredding event where you can shred your documents for free. No luck? Investing in your own personal shredder is never a bad idea.
Unfortunately for some, finding out they’re a victim of identity theft or fraud only comes to light once a bill collector calls. Check your statements often to ensure all purchases are yours and analyze your credit report, which you can get for free once a year by visiting Annual Credit Report or calling 877.438.4338.
What happens if fraud has already happened?
Close the accounts
Close all fraudulent accounts by calling the fraud department at your financial institution. Let them know your identity has been stolen. Be sure the institution confirms the fraudulent activity in writing for your records and then put that confirmation in a safe place for your reference.
Report the theft to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) by filling out their online complaint form or call 877.ID.THEFT.
Next, file a report with your local police department. Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, a photo ID, proof of address and any evidence that you have to prove the theft.
Have your credit report corrected
Send a copy of your identity theft report and proof of identity to the three primary credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion). In a letter, explain in detail what needs to be removed or blocked due to the identity theft.
Hopefully, this information will help prevent you and your family from any identity theft or fraud. To learn a little more about identity theft and how to prevent it, check out our partner GreenPath Financial Wellness. Do a search for “identity theft” and you’ll have plenty of material to reference. Rest assured, all Andigo accounts are protected by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and Excess Share Insurance (ESI).