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Your Complete Guide To Identity Theft Protection

Did you know there were 14.4 million victims of identity theft in 2018? According to Javelin Strategy, each case cost the victim an average of $1,050 — and that’s only the cost in dollars. When an individual’s identity is stolen, the thief wreaks major havoc on the victim’s financial health, which can take months, or even years, to recover from.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming the next victim.  Here is your complete guide to identity theft protection.

 

1. Monitor your credit

One of the best preventative measures you can take against identity theft is monitoring your credit. You can check your credit score for free on sites like CreditKarma.com and order an annual report once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditreport.com. Check your score for any sudden hits and look through your reports for suspicious activity. It’s also a good idea to review your monthly credit card bills for any charges you don’t remember making.


2.  Use multi-factor authentication

When banking online, or using any other service that utilizes sensitive information, always choose multi-factor authentication. If possible, use your thumbprint as one means of identification. Otherwise, use multiple passwords, PINs or personal questions to make it difficult for a hacker to break into your accounts.

 

3. Use strong unique passwords

Never use identical passwords for multiple accounts. If you do so, you’re making yourself an easier target for identity thieves. Instead, create strong, unique passwords for every account you use. The strongest passwords use a variety of letters, symbols and numbers, and are never mock-ups or replicas of popular phrases or words.
 

If you find it difficult to remember multiple passwords, consider using a free password service, like LastPass. You’ll only need to remember one master password and the service will safely store the rest.


4. Only use Wi-Fi with a VPN

Did you know you are putting your personal information at risk every time you use the free Wi-Fi at your neighborhood coffee shop (or any other public establishment)? When using public Wi-Fi, always choose a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead of your default Wi-Fi settings to keep the sensitive information on your device secure.

 

5. Block robocalls

Lots of identity theft occurs via robocalls in which the scammer impersonates a government official or the representative of a well-known company. Lower the number of robocalls reaching your home by adding your home number to the Federal Trade Commission’s No Call List at donotcall.gov. It’s also a good practice to ignore all calls from unfamiliar numbers, because each engagement encourages the scammers to try again. 


6. Upgrade your devices

Whenever possible, upgrade the operating system of your computer, tablet and phone to the latest versions. Upgraded systems will keep you safe from the most recent security breaches and offer you the best protection against viruses and hacks.


7. Shred old documents

While most modern-day identity theft is implemented over the internet or through phone calls, lots of criminals still use old-fashioned means to get the information they need. Dumpster-divers will paw through trashed papers until they hit upon a missive that contains personal information. It’s best to shred all documents containing sensitive information as soon as you don’t need them.

 

8. Keep personal information personal

Be super-cautious about sharing sensitive data, like your Social Security number and banking PINs, with strangers — and even with friends. It’s also a good idea to use the strongest, most private security settings on your social media accounts to keep hackers out.


9. Invest in identity theft protection

If you’re still nervous about being the next victim of identity theft, you may want to sign up for an identity-theft protection service. They don’t come cheap, but services like LifeLock and IdentityForce will monitor your personal information online and immediately alert you about any suspicious activity. 


And always remember that:

• A text alert from us warning of suspicious activity on your card will NEVER include a link to be clicked. Never click on a link in a text message that is supposedly from us. A valid notification will provide information about the suspect transaction and ask the cardholder to reply to the text message with answers such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘help’, or ‘stop’. It will never include a link.

• A text alert from us will always be from a 5-digit number and NOT a 10-digit number resembling a phone number. Text caller IDs will be 20733 if you use the standard call center, or 37268 if you use the premium call center (please refer to FYI 17504).

• A phone call from our institution’s automated dialer will only include a request for your zip code, and no other personal information, unless you confirm that a transaction is fraudulent. Only then will you be transferred to an agent who will ask questions to confirm that you are the actual cardholder before going through your transactions with you. If at any point you are uncertain about questions being asked or the call itself, hang up and call us directly. If a call is received by the cardholder, claiming to be our call center and asking to verify transactions, no information should have to be provided by the cardholder other than their zip code, and a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the transaction provided.

• We will NEVER ask you for your PIN or the 3-digit security code on the back of your card. Don’t give them out to anyone, no matter what they say. Hang up and call us directly. Fraudsters will often ask cardholders to verify fake transactions. When the cardholder says no, they did not perform those transactions, the fraudster then says that their card will be blocked, a new card will be issued, and that they need the card’s PIN to put it on the new card. Many people believe this and provide their PIN. The 3-digit CV2 code on the back of the card will allow a fraudster to conduct card-not-present transactions.

• Regularly check your account online to see if there are any suspicious transactions that have occurred, but especially if you are unsure about a call or text message you’ve received. If anything looks amiss, call us directly for assistance.

• If you have received a voice- or a text-message from us and are unsure about responding to it, call us directly for assistance.

• You can help track your debit card usage with the CardValet app, which sends instant notifications to your phone when you debit card is used

Identity theft can be an expensive nightmare. Be proactive about protecting your identity and keep your information and your money safe.