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How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft

Here are a few basic steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and pretext calling.

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person's personal identifying information.

Often, identity thieves will use another person's personal information, such as a Social Security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth, or account number to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans. They may obtain this information by:

  • Stealing wallets that contain personal identification information and credit cards.
  • Stealing credit union statements from the mail.
  • Diverting mail from its intended recipients by submitting a change of address form.
  • Rummaging through trash for personal data.
  • Stealing personal identification information from workplace records.
  • Intercepting or otherwise obtaining information transmitted electronically.

Pretext calling is a fraudulent means of obtaining a person's personal information.

Pretext callers may contact credit union employees, posing as members, to access members' personal account information. Information obtained from pretext calling may be sold to debt collection services, attorneys, and private investigators to use in court proceedings. Identity thieves may also engage in pretext calling to obtain personal information to create fraudulent accounts.

Do not share personal information, such as account numbers or social security numbers, over the telephone, through the mail, or over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.

Store personal information in a safe place and tear up old credit card receipts, ATM receipts, old account statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Protect your PINs and other passwords. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your phone number, as identity thieves can use this information to access your accounts.

Carry only the minimum amount of identifying information and number of credit cards that you need.

Pay attention to billing cycles and statements. Contact the credit union if you do not receive a monthly bill. It may mean that the bill has been diverted by an identity thief.

Check account statements carefully to ensure all charges, share drafts, or withdrawals you authorized.

Guard your mail from theft. If you have the type of mailbox with a flag to signal that the box contains mail, do not leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox with the flag up. Instead, deposit them in a post office collection box or at the local post office. Promptly remove incoming mail.

Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each credit reporting bureau annually. Click here to learn more.

If you prefer not to receive pre-approved offers of credit, you can opt out of such offers by calling: (888) 5-OPT-OUT. (888-567-8688)

If you want to remove your name from many national direct mail lists, send your name and address to:

DMA Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

If you want to reduce the number of telephone solicitations from many national marketers, send your name, address, and telephone number to:

DMA Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION SERVICES

Identity theft protection services can help you monitor your accounts. They can place fraud alerts or freezes on your credit reports or remove your name from marketing mailing lists. Many people find it valuable and convenient to pay a company to keep track of their financial accounts, credit reports, and personal information. Other people choose to do this on their own for free. Before you pay for a service, evaluate it and its track record before you pay any fees.

Can a Monitoring Service Prevent Identity Theft?

Identity theft protection companies may help you:

  • "lock," "flag," or "freeze" your credit reports
  • place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your reports
  • renew or update your alerts or freezes automatically

An identity theft victim can place a fraud alert or renewal for free.

Some companies, including consumer reporting agencies, offer subscriptions to credit monitoring services. These services track your credit report, and generally send you an email about recent activity, like an inquiry or new account. The more frequent or more detailed the report, the more expensive the service.

Some companies offer services to help you rebuild your identity after a theft. Typically, you give these services a limited power of attorney, which allows them to act on your behalf when dealing with consumer reporting agencies, creditors, or other information sources.

Many companies offer additional services, including removing your name from mailing lists or pre-screened offers of credit or insurance, representing your legal interests, “guaranteeing” reimbursement in the event you experience a loss due to identity theft, or helping you track down whether your personal information has been exposed online.

-- This article is courtesy of the National Credit Union Administration at mycreditunion.gov.

Related Topics

Personal Finances Identity Theft

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