There is no denying that the lightning-fast development of the Internet and huge jumps in technology in the past two and a half decades have transformed how we handle day-to-day transactions, from banking and paying bills to shopping and booking trips. But with the good comes the bad: According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2021 Identity Fraud Report, there was one incident of identity fraud every two seconds last year. And according to a recent report from the FTC, identity fraud topped its list of complaints for the fifth consecutive year.
Identity fraud occurs when a thief steals confidential data – such as your credit or debit card number, Social Security number, usernames, and passwords – and uses that information to obtain credit, a loan, merchandise, etc. Identity thieves have plenty of schemes in their toolboxes. For example, one attack that is growing in popularity is phishing. Say you received an email that appeared to be from your credit union or credit card company, asking you to confirm your username and password, account number, or other sensitive information. You reply, thinking all is well, but you have unknowingly given your information to one of the bad guys. For more information on common scams and resources to help prevent identity theft, visit our page about Fraud Prevention.
The results of identity theft can be devastating, from unauthorized charges and withdrawals to damaged credit. Plus, it can be a real hassle to regain control of your identity once it is lost. Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways to prevent identity theft from happening to you.
Be smart about who you share information with.
For example, Cobalt Credit Union or any other financial institution will never contact you to ask for your username, password, bank account number or Social Security number.
Consider shredding your documents.
Monthly statements, bills and other mail that might contain personal information should all be on your shred list. Guard your debit card, PIN and ATM receipts, and mail your bills in a secure Postal Service mailbox.
Cobalt Credit Union offers free document shred events for our members. Depending on demand, they typically are scheduled once in the spring and once in the fall. Check out our community event listings for upcoming document shred opportunities.
If you get a suspicious message, or if a check is lost or stolen, contact your financial institution immediately. Similarly, if you do not receive a bill you are expecting, call the biller to find out why.
Since Covid, identity fraud has also been happening more often in unemployment claims. If that, or any other suspicious activity happens, report it to the company or state before it causes future problems.
Monitor your credit score.
Your credit report might be the first place you see fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
Use strong passwords for all accounts and work with a financial institution that has strict privacy policies and uses strong encryption for its online transactions.
Follow these best practices to create a password that’s difficult to crack.
- Make sure it’s at least 8 characters long
- Use numbers, symbols and case-sensitive letters
- Don’t include your username, real name or company name
Identity theft is serious, and it can be hard to come back from. But with some preventive measures and a watchful eye, you can be sure that you won’t be the next victim. If you suspect your identity has been compromised, be sure to download The Essential ID Theft Checklist for a step-by-step guide on the urgent next steps you need to take.