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How to Protect your Identity

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Be proactive in safeguarding your sensitive, personal and confidential information. Protecting this information makes it difficult for someone to assume your identity to commit fraud or other criminal acts. Focus on best practices in these areas to help keep your information safe:

Close up of personal information form with confidential stamp

Keep your SSN private.

Your Social Security number (SSN) can be the key to your identity. A dishonest person can use it to get other personal information about you. Identity thieves can use it to apply for credit and services in your name.

  • Only share your, or your child’s, Social Security number when necessary. Ask if you can use an alternate form of identification. The decision to share is yours. If someone requests you to share your Social Security number, ask:
    • Why do you need it?
    • How will it be used?
    • How will it be protected?
    • What happens if I do not share it?
  • Your employer and financial institutions need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. A business may ask for your Social Security number so they can check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment or sign up for utility services.
  • If you lose your Social Security card or if someone is misusing your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration.

Reduce your paper trail.

Receipts, invoices, statements and other financial forms may contain sensitive or personal information.

  • Always shred items containing full account numbers or personal information, including your debit or credit cards that are no longer active.
  • Clean out your wallet and only carry the information you need.
  • Protect your mail from theft by dropping outgoing mail in a post office collection box and promptly removing delivered mail.
  • If you receive paper statements, be aware of when they normally arrive and consider opting-in to eStatements for faster delivery and secure storage.

Monitor your accounts

Routinely monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.

  • Set up Alerts via Online and Mobile Banking to receive email, text or push notifications.
  • Reconcile your account by reviewing your monthly statements or by frequently logging on to Online or Mobile Banking.
  • Report unauthorized transactions immediately to your bank, credit union or credit card company and appropriate law enforcement agency as soon as you detect them. Keep a list of telephone numbers for reporting the loss or theft of your credit and debit cards.

Monitor your credit.

Request a free, annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.

  • You can review it at: annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-FACTACT (877-322-8228).
  • Children can be targets for identity theft. Check your child’s credit report regularly as well.

Manage your social media.

Be careful about sharing personal information on social media. The more you share, the more vulnerable you could become.

  • Limit your online friends to people you actually know and use privacy settings to restrict who can see and post on your profile.
  • Learn about location-based services. Many devices have GPS technology, which can be used to locate a device or even find out where a photo was taken. For example, if your device has GPS location-based services enabled and you take a picture in your home and post it online, someone could find your home using GPS information embedded in the photo. Consider keeping location-based services within apps and photos turned off and turned them on only when needed. Ask yourself, does this app really need to know where I am?

Shop securely.

Avoid using public computers for email or sensitive matters like financial correspondence or online banking (this includes public Wi-Fi); instead, use a secure computer or your personal mobile device.

  • Check for security features before you make a purchase or share sensitive information online. Look for https:// in the web address and a lock image indicating the web page is using a security certificate to encrypt the information you submit.

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