Identity Theft 101

Posted by Katrin Sticha on Dec 12, 2015 06:00:00 AM

Topic: ALL

Man working on his laptop

What’s up with identity theft?

Do you use a credit or debit card? Shop online? Have a smartphone? Use a tablet?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you could be a target. With 9.9 million people affected annually*, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security Number, home or work address, credit card number, account numbers, passwords, and other confidential information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. The good news? Most identity theft can be resolved if it’s caught early. Here are the basics, or Identity Theft 101. 

Proactive Steps to Protect Yourself

You can and should be proactive to safeguard yourself and your finances:

  • Make a regular habit out of shredding. Shred your receipts, credit card offers, account statements, returned checks, and any other private or confidential information before throwing it away.

  • Never give your account, credit card, or identifying information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call. Remember, no financial institution will ever ask you for information it already has in its records.

  • Only carry essential documents with you. Leaving your extra credit cards, birth certificate, Social Security card, or passport in a safe or at home can help you protect yourself.

  • Pay attention to your credit card activity and report anything suspicious. If you still receive paper statements, consider switching to online.

  • It’s also important to review your credit report at least once annually. This simple (and free) habit can help catch it early.

Help! I may be a victim!

If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Contact all your financial institutions right away.

  • Call one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert will alert potential creditors or lenders so they can take steps to protect you.

    • Equifax 800-525-6285

    • Experian 888-397-3742

    • TransUnion 800-680-7289

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online to report the fraudulent activity or call 1-877-438-4338, and contact your local law enforcement agency to file a report.

Banks and card companies may issue new cards and PIN numbers to protect your financial well-being, and will work to identify and correct any unauthorized charges. Provide the creditor with a copy of your police report, a notarized FTC Affidavit, or other related documents.

Don’t forget to keep a log of all related phone conversations, including the names of people with whom you speak.

What now?

There are many resources out there to protect yourself. The key is to be proactive. Here at Bank Mutual, consider looking into our ID Protect Plus program. This powerful service includes:

  • Access to dedicated, certified Resolution Specialists

  • Monitoring and alerts for your identity on the internet black market and changes in your credit report

  • Assistance if you are the victim of fraud, lose your wallet, or if your identity has been compromised

*According to the Federal Trade Commission