Although it is important to always take necessary steps to prevent identity theft, it is especially important during a time of such financial turbulence. Scammers and identity thieves are still on the hunt for the perfect victim, and we’re here to provide you with a variety of preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Freeze your credit: You can do this for free with each of the three credit bureaus, and they each even offer an app that allows you to freeze or unfreeze your credit at any time.
- Use a shredder: We recommend shredding statements, receipts, bills, and even pre-approved credit card offers.
- Watch your mail: Make sure you check your mail daily as stolen mail can easily lead to identity theft. If you’re ever out of town, have your mail held.
- Use strong passwords: Always use strong passwords for any online accounts you hold. Try not to use the same password for various accounts.
- Set up alerts: Many financial institutions allow the option of sending emails or texts whenever a transaction has taken place on an account.
- Check your credit reports often: Currently, you can pull your free credit reports every week until April 2021 due to COVID-19. Even once this expires, make sure to pull your free reports every twelve months. Check for any inaccuracies or suspicious activity.
- Monitor your statements: Always review your bank and credit card statements to ensure no unauthorized transactions have taken place.
- Protect your Social Security Number: Only provide this information when it is absolutely necessary.
- Sign up for identity theft protection or credit monitoring services: Identity theft protection will alert you if personal information is used. Credit monitoring services will notify you if there is an inquiry or other activity on your credit report.
- Never provide personal information to phone solicitors: Especially do not provide them with account number information or your social security number.
- Watch out for phishing scams: If you receive an email or text message directing you to a suspicious attachment or link, do not click it. With many scams, you can even receive messages claiming they’re from your financial institution. If you ever receive correspondence that seems urgent with an account, contact the financial institution directly to ensure authenticity of the message.
Right now, so many are enduring financial crises, and at a time of great vulnerability, there are still those out there trying to take advantage of a difficult situation. Stay on top of your accounts, protect your personal information, and act quickly if you do ever see suspicious activity. To read more about identity theft or current scams, you can refer to the various resources on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.consumer.ftc.gov.