3 Practical Tips to Safeguard Your Identity
Protecting your identity is extremely important. When fraudsters steal your personal information, you can suffer serious consequences. We’re delving into what identity theft is, the potential risks involved, and practical steps you can take to safeguard your personal information.
Understanding Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone unlawfully uses your personal information, like your name, Social Security number, or financial details. When thieves have this information, they can access your bank accounts, open new accounts or loans in your name, make unauthorized purchases with your credit card, or even attempt to assume your identity to evade the law. Resolving identity theft can take months or even years.
Protecting Your Identity
Safeguarding your personal information is the best defense against identity theft. Here are some ways to protect your identity:
- Secure Your Mail
- Shred documents with personal information, such as receipts, financial and medical statements, cleared checks, credit offers, and expired cards.
- Always use U.S. Postal Service collection boxes or visit the post office to send your letters.
- Retrieve your mail promptly and consider having it held at the post office if you’ll be away for an extended period. You might also look into getting a secure, lockable mailbox.
- Share Information Safely
- When providing information, make sure you know who you’re giving it to.
- Share personal data only if you initiated the contact and are certain about the recipient’s identity.
- If you receive unsolicited contact, whether by phone, text, email or online, don’t disclose any sensitive information. Instead, offer to call back and look up the real phone number online or find it in official paperwork you may have received from the company (e.g. bank statements, bills). Don’t call back to a number they provided on the call or rely on caller ID.
- Don’t click on unfamiliar links, particularly those related to financial, medical, or government matters, including the IRS.
- Be careful with your Social Security number (SSN). There may be legitimate reasons that your employer, financial institution, medical insurer, and the IRS needs your SSN. However, always verify the authenticity of any request before providing it, as fraudsters may pose as these organizations. If other entities request your SSN, ask about providing an alternative instead.
- Consider a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. Here are the key points to know:
- Credit freezes are free of charge.
- You must contact each of the three national credit bureaus to freeze each report.
- Your credit score won’t be affected.
- You can still obtain your free annual credit report.
- You have the ability to lift the freeze for specific inquiries or a set duration.
- Existing creditors and government agencies responding to court orders can still access your credit report.
- Recognizing Signs of Identity Theft
Learn to spot the potential signs of identity theft so you can take prompt action.
- Unfamiliar withdrawals on your bank statements
- Suspicious charges on your credit or debit card
- Missing bills and other mail
- Statements from unfamiliar credit cards
- Unwarranted calls from debt collectors
- Notifications of data breaches
- Unexpected credit or loan application denials
- Unsolicited requests for personal information
- Fraudulent tax returns filed in your name
- Bills for medical services or medications you never received
- Accounts appearing on your credit report that you didn’t open or charges you didn’t make
Suspect Identity Theft? Take Action
If you suspect that your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information has been lost or stolen, act swiftly to protect yourself. Visit IdentityTheft.gov, a comprehensive resource provided by the federal government, to report the incident and initiate the recovery process.
Be Proactive with a Diamond Secure Account
If you want even more security for your identity, consider opening a Pinnacle Bank Diamond Secure Account. This special checking account offers comprehensive identity theft monitoring and resolution services to give you even more peace of mind.