In an ever-evolving, technology driven world, our reliance on the Internet and other digital resources is more prevalent than ever before. Each consumer’s personal information now resides on dozens, if not hundreds of servers across the globe. The unfortunate consequence of this reliance on technology is a significant increase in identity theft. Identity theft is a crime in which a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or Social Security number, to commit fraud. The thief can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
Don’t become a victim. Follow these tips to keep your information – and your wallet – safe.
Don’t Share Your Secrets
Do not provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.
Shred Sensitive Papers
Shred receipts, banks statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away. Bank First offers multiple Shred Days each year to assist in safely destroying sensitive information. Follow us on Facebook to receive updates on our Shred Days!
Keep An Eye Out for Missing Mail
Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking and e-statements to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
Use Online Banking to Protect Yourself
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Or, sign up for free credit monitoring services such as CreditKarma.com or WalletHub.com. These sites allow you to check your score at any time – free of charge.
Protect Your Computer
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
Protect Your Mobile Device
Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.
Set strong passwords
A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. TIP: Make your password a sentence or phrase that means something to you, but incorporate acronyms to make it even stronger! For example, “ARimffp.Hi#12.” (Aaron Rodgers is my favorite football player. He is #12.)
Watch out for phishing scams
Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at firstname.lastname@example.org – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
Watch out for Impostors
Cybercriminals are now claiming to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. The IRS will never email you or call you demanding for immediate payment without having first mailed a bill. Nor will they ask for a credit card or debit card number via email or phone.
Keep personal information personal
Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
What to do if you’re a victim
Immediately call your bank and credit card issuers so they can close your accounts. Visit our Identity Fraud page to learn more.