Identity theft is a federal crime. It occurs when one person's identification (which can include name, social security number or any account number) is used or transferred by another person for unlawful activities.
Prevention is the first step in minimizing your risk. Below are some guidelines for you to consider.
Identity Theft Prevention Guidelines
- Shred any papers with confidential information before you throw them out, including junk mail. Anything with an account number can be used in identity theft. This includes pre-screened credit card offers, receipts, canceled checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, doctors' bills, and insurance documents.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier. Few institutions - businesses granting you credit, employers filling out tax forms for you, or government agencies - have any reasonable cause to know your Social Security number.
- Carry as few cards with identification and personal information as possible. Many identity thefts are traced to having a purse or wallet stolen.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through email, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Unless you initiated the call with the business, don't give out any confidential information - such as your credit card number, Social Security number, bank account numbers, PIN, birth date, or even your mother's maiden name.
- Check your statement from MembersAlliance Credit Union and other places as soon as you receive them and make sure there is no unexplained activity.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
- Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Request a credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Many people don't realize they are victims of identity theft until long after the initial crime occurred. Identity thieves often try to hide the crimes for as long as possible, so that they can access more money. To stop the crimes as soon as possible, make sure you carefully check your credit reports regularly. Your credit reports are important tools for limiting the amount of damage a thief can cause. To request your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Visit www.ftc.gov/freereports to learn more about requesting your free credit report.
- Monitor your credit report(s). Learn more about our TrueCredit monitoring service through TransUnion. TrueCredit can alert you by email to changes in your credit report.
Steps for Victims of Identity Theft
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, please follow these important steps.
- Report the fraud immediately to your creditors including your credit union, credit card companies, and mortgage company.
- Be sure to keep records and document all communications with the creditors and government agencies you contact, include the date and the name of the person you were in contact with. Follow up all telephone contacts with a letter and keep a copy.
- Carefully monitor the account activity on your statements. Report fraudulent activity to the issuing company immediately.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. To do so, contact the three major credit bureaus:
- Equifax - 800.525.6285
- Experian - 888.397.3742
- TransUnion - 800.680.7289
- Notify Social Security Fraud Hotline - 800.269.0271
- File a police report. Provide them with as much documentation as possible. Make sure that the accounts are listed on the police report and request a copy of the police report.
- Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - 877.438.4338