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Smart Moves to Prevent Identity Theft | WPCU

Someone falls victim to identity theft every two seconds1. Is your information safe?

Identity theft occurs when someone​ steals all or portions of your personally identifiable information (PII) - such as your name, Social Security Number, or account information – and uses it to steal your money, sell your identity, and commit fraud or other crimes in your name. Luckily there are proactive steps you can take to keep your identity and information out of the wrong hands. Here are some smart ways to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

Shred printed documents that contain personal data

Many identity thieves still use traditional methods such as “dumpster diving,” mail theft, and purse or wallet snatching to steal consumers’ personal information. Always be sure to shred any documents that contain your personal data such as checks, mail, bills, account statements, expired credit cards, or tax documents before throwing them away.

Monitor accounts and credit reports regularly

It’s important to check your account and credit card activity frequently so you can detect any unusual activity, which could be a sign of identity theft. You can request a free copy of your credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Never give out personal information

Scam artists often solicit consumers’ PII by pretending to be from reputable companies or organizations, including banks or credit unions. Never give out your personal information, including your Social Security number, online, over the phone, or via text message. Legitimate organizations, including financial institutions, will not ask you to provide or confirm your personal information using these methods. 

Create challenging passwords

Identity thieves know that most people use the same password for their online accounts. To make it more difficult for others to access your accounts and personal information, create challenging passwords that use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and remember to change your password every 60 to 90 days.

Stay safe online

Make sure you shop and share personal information on only secure websites. A lock icon in the website’s URL and a web address that has the prefix “https” are signs that a website is safe and secure.

What to do if you become a victim

No matter how many precautions you take, identity thieves are always coming up with clever new ways to access consumers’ data. If you suspect that your personal information has been stolen, take the following steps:

Report identity theft

Contact any entity that may be affected by the theft of your information, including your financial institution and the Social Security Administration. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-438-4338 or visiting IdentityTheft.gov.

Consider opening new credit card and financial accounts

Contact your financial institution to determine the best way to protect your accounts after identity theft. This may involve closing and reopening accounts to prevent criminals from accessing your financial information in the future. You should also contact your credit card provider(s) to order a replacement card.

Protect your credit

Identity theft can have a lasting impact on your credit. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, to place a free freeze on your credit so that no additional lines of credit can be taken out without your approval. Ask to put a fraud alert on your credit file, which makes it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. You may also place a short statement on your credit report to inform businesses that you may have been a victim of identity theft.

Identity theft can happen to anyone. That’s why Wright-Patt Credit Union provides the tips, tools, and resources you need to protect your personal information and avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. For more helpful fraud prevention tips, visit our Fraud Education and Prevention​ page.

1. LifeLock, Symantec Corporation. 2017