Identity Theft Awareness

Identity Theft Awareness Week

This week is Identity Theft Awareness Week. Identity theft is when someone obtains your personal information and uses it to open accounts, file a fraudulent tax return, apply for loans, or apply for unemployment benefits. With the pandemic, identity thieves have been busy. In 2021, 4.8 million people were victims of identity theft and fraud reports. This is up 45% from 3.3 million in 2019 (Source). This week is all about discussing Identity Theft: How do I spot it? How can I prevent it? What do I do if it happens to me?

 


 

How to spot identity theft:

    1. Your bills stop coming to your house
      • Thieves will change the address on your accounts to prevent you from seeing the activity on your account.
    2. You were rejected for a loan, and you know you have good credit
      • You could also be approved but your APR is higher than your other accounts
      • Debt collectors are calling you about accounts you didn’t open
    3. You received a bill for an account you don’t have
      • Debt collectors are calling you about accounts you didn’t open
    4. Your tax return was rejected
      • This could mean that someone filed a fraudulent tax return using your information
    5. You notice small “test” charges on your account
      • Thieves will use small charges such as $1 to make sure a card is open and working
    6. Financial institutions will call you regarding suspicious activity on your account

 

How can I prevent identity theft?

    1. Password protect your devices
      • This can keep your information protected in case your phone gets lost or stolen
    2. Mix up your passwords
      • Don’t use the same password for every account. Having a good mix of passwords will keep fraudsters from getting in to all your accounts if they get one of your passwords.
      • Use a mix of words, numbers, and special characters and the longer your password, the better.
    3. Watch out for Phishing attempts coming to your email
      • Don’t follow links on emails if they look suspicious or if you don’t know who the email is from.
      • Never open an attachment in an email, unless you a sure of the sender and you are expecting to receive it.
    4. Never give out personal information over the phone
      • Financial institutions will never call and ask for your personal information (such as your full social security number) over the phone.
      • If you are unsure if you are speaking to the right people, hang up and call your bank branch. You can find our phone number on the locations and hours page of our website or on your bank statement.
    5. Check credit reports
      • You can check all three of your credit reports for free once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com.
      • You can monitor your credit by using a monitoring service such as Credit Karma.
    6. Protect your personal documents
      • Check your mail every day to make sure sensitive documents aren’t sitting in your mailbox. If you are going away, talk to the post office to hold your mail.
      • Don’t throw personal documents away – always shred them.
      • Make sure to take receipts and shred them.
    7. Don’t keep everything in your wallet
      • Limit the amount of credit and debit cards in case your wallet is ever lost or stolen.
      • Never carry your social security card in your wallet, keep it in a safe or a safe deposit box at the bank.
    8. Never use public Wi-Fi
    9. Install virus software on personal computers

 

What do I do if I become victim to identity theft?

    1. Monitor your credit reports
    2. File an Identity Theft Claim right away
      • Inform your creditors and financial institutions
      • Report to the Federal Trade Commission
    3. Freeze your credit
      • This will stop thieves from opening fraudulent accounts
      • Dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports
    4. Report on IdentityTheft.gov
      • Utilize the templates on this website to send letters to creditors.
      • Fill out the Recovery Plan Guide.
      • Track your progress of getting your information back and corrected.

 


 

Fraudsters are working hard to steal personal information, but you can protect yourself by being aware and being cautious. If you come across a situation that you think might be fraudulent, call your local Grinnell State Bank branch or contact us here, and we would be happy to help you!