Understanding Identity Theft

May 2, 2024 by Partner Colorado Credit Union

Minimizing the risk of identity theft is essential for protecting your personal and financial information. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. To reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim, here are some practical steps you can take.

Guard Your Social Security Number

Your Social Security Number (SSN) is a prime target for identity thieves because it provides access to various aspects of your identity. Only share your SSN when absolutely necessary, such as for employment, taxes, and financial transactions. Avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, and never provide it over the phone or via email unless you initiate the contact and trust the recipient.

Secure Personal Documents

Keep important documents such as birth certificates, passports, and financial statements in a secure location, preferably a locked safe or cabinet. Shred documents containing sensitive information before disposing of them to prevent dumpster diving.

Partner Colorado provides free Community Shred Days throughout the year, so you can safely and securely dispose of any unwanted documents. You can always visit our website to find details about our upcoming Shred Days.

Use Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication

Create unique, complex passwords for your online accounts, and avoid using easily guessable information such as your birthdate or pet's name. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible, which adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone.

Monitor Your Financial Accounts

Regularly review your bank statements, credit card statements, and credit reports for any suspicious activity. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Currently, online access to your credit report is available on a weekly basis for free. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get started. You can also check your FICO® Credit Score through a feature on Partner Colorado’s Mobile Banking App.

If you find any unauthorized transactions or errors on your credit report, report them immediately to your financial institution and credit reporting agencies.

Be Cautious Online

Exercise caution when sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. Avoid posting sensitive details such as your full birthdate, home address, or financial account numbers. Be wary of phishing emails, texts, and calls that may attempt to trick you into providing personal information or clicking on malicious links.

Secure Your Devices

Keep your computer, smartphone, and other devices updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software. Use a secure Wi-Fi network and avoid conducting sensitive transactions on public or unsecured networks. Consider enabling device encryption to protect data stored on your devices in case they are lost or stolen.

Limit Access to Your Mailbox

Retrieve mail promptly from your mailbox to prevent theft of sensitive documents. Consider using a locked mailbox or a P.O. box for added security, especially if you receive sensitive mail such as financial statements or pre-approved credit offers.

Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Requests

Exercise caution when responding to unsolicited requests for personal information, whether through phone calls, emails, or in-person. Verify the identity of the requester before providing any sensitive information, especially if they claim to be from a government agency or financial institution.

Opt-Out of Prescreened Credit Offers

Reduce the risk of identity theft by opting out of prescreened credit offers, which can be intercepted and used by fraudsters to apply for credit in your name. You can opt out by visiting the official website of the credit reporting agencies or calling their toll-free number.

Freeze Your Credit Reports

Consider placing a freeze on your credit reports with the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can temporarily lift the freeze when needed by providing a PIN or password.

Protect Your Personal Devices

Ensure your computer, smartphone, and other devices are protected with strong passwords or biometric authentication. Enable automatic updates for operating systems and applications to patch vulnerabilities and defend against malware and other threats.

Educate Yourself About Identity Theft

Stay informed about the latest identity theft trends and scams by reading reputable sources of information such as government agencies, consumer advocacy groups, and financial institutions. Familiarize yourself with common red flags and warning signs of identity theft, and know what steps to take if you suspect you've been targeted.

You can sign up for our free Fraud News & Alerts to receive weekly emails with the latest cybersecurity news, tips and breach notifications.

By implementing these proactive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft and safeguard your personal and financial information. Remember to stay vigilant and regularly review your security practices to adapt to evolving threats in our digital world.