Risk Alert

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Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft and Data Breaches

Identity theft and data breaches continue to be a disturbing statistic. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, over 750 total data breaches occurred in the United States in 2018 with more than 27 million records exposed.1

Identity theft and fraud refer to when an individual’s personal information is obtained and used in a way that involves fraud or deception.2 Typically used for monetary gain, identity theft and fraud may also include medical or tax-related activities. A data breach occurs when an individual’s information is at risk due to exposure.1 Because we utilize personal information – such as our name, telephone number, address, Social Security number, or email – regularly throughout our day-to-day lives, it is almost impossible to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft, fraud, or data breaches.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau3, here are the top 10 ways to protect your personal information from being misused:

  1. Review your credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can request a copy from AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Consider a security freeze. A security freeze or credit freeze on your credit report restricts access to your credit file. Creditors typically will not offer you credit if they cannot access your credit reporting file, so a freeze prevents you and others from opening new accounts in your name. In almost all states, a freeze lasts until you remove it. In some states, it expires after seven years.
  3. Set up a fraud alert. Fraud alerts require that a financial institution verifies your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account. A fraud alert will not prevent lenders from opening new accounts in your name, but it will require that the lenders take additional identification verification steps to make sure that you are making the request. An initial fraud alert only lasts for 90 days, so you may want to watch for when to renew it. You can also set up an extended alert for identity theft victims, which is good for seven years.
  4. Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. Look closely for charges you did not make. Even a small charge can be a danger sign. Thieves sometimes will take a small amount from your checking account and then return to take much more if the small debit goes unnoticed.
  5. Don’t ignore bills from people you don’t know. A bill on an account you do not recognize may be an indication that someone else has opened an account in your name. Contact the creditor to find out.
  6. Shred any documents with personal or sensitive information. Be sure to keep hard copies of financial information in a safe place and be sure to shred them before getting rid of them.
  7. Change your passwords for all of your financial accounts and consider changing the passwords for your other accounts, as well. Be sure to create strong passwords and do not use the same password for all accounts. Do not use information such as addresses and birthdays in your passwords. For more tips on how to create strong passwords read more on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) blog.
  8. File your taxes as soon as you can. A scammer can use your Social Security number to get a tax refund. You can try to prevent a scammer from using your tax information to file and steal your tax refund by making sure you file before they do. Be sure not to ignore any official letters from the IRS and reply as soon as possible. The IRS will contact you by mail; do not provide any information or account numbers in response to calls or emails.
  9. Active duty service members are eligible for additional protections, and should also monitor their credit carefully. Learn more about what you can do if you’re currently serving at home or abroad.
  10. If you are the parent or guardian of a minor and you think your child’s information has been compromised, here are some steps from the FTC you can take to protect their information from fraudulent use. If you think you or your child’s identity has already been stolen you can follow checklists and additional steps provided by the FTC to begin recovering from a case of identity theft.

Sources:

1 “Data Breaches,” Identity Theft Resource Center, https://www.idtheftcenter.org/data-breaches/.

2 “Identity Theft,” The United States Department of Justice, February 07, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/identity-theft/identity-theft-and-identity-fraud.

3 “Top 10 ways to protect yourself in the wake of the Equifax data breach,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, September 2017, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/top-10-ways-protect-yourself-wake-equifax-data-breach/


Identity Theft Prevention Information

TN Members 1st Federal Credit Union is excited to provide Fully Managed Recovery identity theft services to all of our members and their family at no cost. We have partnered with one of the nation’s most trusted names in Identity Theft Protection to provide you with a comprehensive Identity Theft Research, Remediation and Recovery Service. Click here to visit the Identity Theft Protection page to learn more.

Additional Identity Theft Prevention Resources:


International Card Transactions

Due to the increased incidence in international card fraud, we have blocked the approval of all international card transactions. If you will be using your DEBIT or CREDIT CARD internationally, please contact the card services department at the credit union BEFORE YOU LEAVE.


FREE Annual Credit Report

Each major credit bureau is required to provide one free credit report annually to a consumer requesting a copy. Go to annualcreditreport.com to request your copy or call the credit bureaus directly. Their numbers are:

  • 1.888.397.3742 – Experian
  • 1.800.685.1111 – Equifax
  • 1.800.888.4213 – Trans Union