Protect Your Identity! To The Rest Of The World, It’s What Makes You, You!
Identity Theft is a high-profile crime that gets a lot of attention in the media, and rightly so. By some estimates, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. It occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to commit fraud, open accounts, purchase vehicles, apply for loans, credit cards, social benefits and more all in the victim’s name without your knowledge. Anyone can be a victim, whether or not you use the internet (see the ID Theft Quiz below). Although businesses and law enforcement are working to make identity theft more difficult, you still need to take reasonable steps to help protect your personal information. Below, we’ve assembled some answers, tips and links to outside agencies that you may find helpful.
Rule #1: Never respond to any unexpected requests for your personal information by phone, email, or on the web. Guard your PIN, social security number, and other personal information like they were the keys to your home. Your credit union doesn’t ever give your information to outsiders; you shouldn’t either.
ID Theft Quiz
- I receive several offers of pre-approved credit every week. (5 points)
- I don’t shred them. (5 more points)
- I carry my Social Security card in my wallet. (10 points)
- I haven’t had my Social Security number removed from my driver’s license. (10 points)
- I use an unlocked, open box at work or home to mail my payments. (10 points)
- I don’t have a post office box or a secured, locked mailbox (5 points)
- I carry my military ID with me at all times. (10 points)
- I provide my Social Security number whenever asked, without asking questions about how that information will be safeguarded. (10 points)
- I orally provide my number without regard to who might be listening. (5 more points)
- I use my Social Security number at work as an employee ID number or at school as a student ID number. (5 points)
- My Social Security number is printed on various documents frequently seen in the workplace, such as time cards. (10 points)
- I have my Social Security number and/or driver’s license number printed on my personal checks (10 points)
- I carry my insurance card with either my or my spouse’s Social Security number printed on it. (10 points)
- I haven’t ordered a free copy of my credit report for at least two years. (20 points)
- I don’t protect my discarded personal, credit, and financial information by shredding them prior to putting them in the trash. (10 points)
Now, add your score. A score of 0 – 50 means you have a low risk of being an identity theft victim. A score of 50 – 100 means you have an average risk, but your risk is higher if you have a good credit score. If you scored over 100, you are an easy target for identity theft. You should think seriously about changing your ways.
How do they get your identity information?
- Theft of your incoming or outgoing mail
- Theft of a wallet or purse
- Vehicle break-ins
- Dumpster diving for discarded documents
- Spyware, keystroke loggers, or viruses installed surreptitiously in your computer
- Social engineering – trick you into divulging your information by taking a too-personal survey or notifying you of a grand prize that you won in a contest you didn’t enter
- Spam – offers unbelievably good deals by following a link to a fake site
- “Phishing” – requests for “confirmation” of personal information, often used together with website spoofing
- Website spoofing – imitating a legitimate website where you may have business
- Shoulder surfing – watching over your shoulder for your PIN at an ATM or checkout
What can thieves do with my identity?
- Gain access to your accounts anywhere where you’re not personally known and change the mailing address
- Apply for, get, and use credit cards in your name
- Apply for and get a loan in your name
- Receive medical care (and create medical bills) in your name
- Order or create share drafts (checks) in your name
- Obtain driver’s license or other ID in your name with their picture
- File a fraudulent tax return and claim your refund
How do I protect my identity information?
- Read all of your statements as soon as you receive them, even the automatically paid bills.
- Notice if you haven’t received a statement. It’s probably just delayed, but could have been redirected.
- Examine all statements for unauthorized activity and notify the institution immediately if you detect any.
- Shred all statements, receipts, old checks, and other documents before discarding them.
- Store all financial documents securely.
- Shred unwanted “pre-approved” credit offers before discarding.
- Memorize ATM, online banking, and other PINs, then shred or secure the printed version.
- Never share your PINs with another person unless you expect them to be used.
- Never disclose personal information, such as account numbers, PINs, Social Security numbers with any telephone caller or email sender. Only disclose them when necessary if you’ve initiated the call.
- Do not choose easy-to-guess PINs, such as the last four digits of your Social Security number, your address, a series of consecutive numbers (1234, etc.) or birthdate.
- Do not mail bill payments from your unsecured home mailbox. Use a service like KTFCU’s Bill Payer instead.
- Have the post office hold or a trusted friend pick up your mail while away for more than overnight.
- Order a free credit report annually. Report any unauthorized activity to the bureaus.
- Immediately report lost or stolen ATM, Debit, or Credit cards to the issuing institution.
- Report stolen identification documents to the police.
- Don’t have your Social Security number printed on your driver’s license or checks.
- Supply your Social Security number to businesses only when absolutely required. Some businesses ask for it but will not require it. Financial institutions are legally required to obtain that number from you.
- Carry only the identification and credit cards you need. Do not carry everything you own.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using your PIN. “Shoulder surfers” can watch for you PIN, then duplicate your card and drain your account.
- Any ATM with unusual or extra equipment should be avoided. “Skimmers” can place an additional card reader over the regular card slot or post a sign that the regular reader is out of order, then read your card information to make a duplicate.
- Never lend your card and/or PIN to anyone that you haven’t authorized to use them.
At Your Computer:
- Buy or get free anti-virus software. Keep it updated.
- Keep your operating system updated with all available security patches.
- Don’t follow links or download files from people you don’t know or trust.
- Buy or get free firewall software. Windows operating systems have a firewall built in. Make sure it’s activated.
- Make sure you see the locked padlock icon at the bottom of your browser and that the site’s address begins with “https:” when making a purchase online.
I’m A Victim. Now What?
- Contact any institutions at which you have an account that’s been tampered with. Close any existing accounts and open new ones. Fill out a dispute form for any unauthorized activity.
- Contact creditors that haven’t been tampered with and alert them to your problem. Request that they require positive identification for any transaction on your accounts.
- Contact Knoxville Teachers FCU, even if your accounts here weren’t compromised. Call us at 865-582-2700 or email us.
- File a police report and keep a copy of it.
- Change passwords and PINs on all credit, ATM or debit cards, as well as at online banking or investment sites.
Contact the fraud department at each of the three major credit bureaus. Ask that a fraud alert be placed in your file.
- Make notes of when you called, who you spoke to, and any comments or instructions they give you.
- If checks have been stolen and/or used fraudulently, close the account and notify any check verification companies. You may be held responsible if you fail to notify your financial institution in a timely manner.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission and complete an I.D. Theft Affidavit.
Place or lift a freeze on your Credit Report:
Are There Other Sources To Learn About Identity Theft?
FirstGov For Consumers at https://www.consumer.gov/
Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov
US Department of Justice at www.justice.gov