Financial Education Blog

Reducing your risk for identity theft

As we all know, the risk for identity theft is ever present. The news is filled with stories of scammers and security breaches that can sometimes make it feel impossible to be safe. However, staying vigilant and being proactive in securing your information can help reduce that risk and eliminate headaches down the road. Here are a few steps that you can take to make your information more secure.

Steer clear of the unknown

Remember when your parents taught you to not talk to strangers? The advice still holds when it comes to your email, texts and phone calls.

NEVER click on unsolicited or suspicious looking links sent to you by email or text. These links could download malware capable of spying on your personal activity. If you aren’t sure of the sender, delete the message. For an extra layer of security, consider downloading malware software such as Trusteer, free from 7 17, to protect your computer from prying eyes.

The same goes for phone calls. Do not give your account information, social security number or any other personal information to anyone calling you who you do not know. If you receive any call that is suspicious, hang up immediately.

Regularly review your credit report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) legally requires all three credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free credit report annually. This report includes information such as your address, how you pay your bills and any accounts that have been opened in your name. Regular review of this report can indicate whether there has been fraudulent use of your identity, giving you the chance to report and dispute it. Utilizing the ID Theft and Security Center Program available through 7 17’s Benefits Plus Checking Account*, it makes it easy to request those reports, and set reminders for future requests through its credit report center.

Password isn’t a password

Be mindful when it comes to creating a password. While it might be easier to remember something simple such as your spouse’s, child’s or pet’s name, it’s recommended to use an intricate combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols to make it more difficult to decode. Once created, store this information in a safe, secure location, and don’t give it out to anyone. 

Create a fraud alert

If you have been notified that you might be a fraud victim, it’s a good measure to set up a fraud alert. This notice, placed on your file with the credit reporting agencies, notifies prospective lenders to take extra measures to confirm the identity of any person claiming to be you. While this means more hoops for you to jump through when acting on in-store or online credit offers, it also means it’s less likely that a fraudster will open accounts in your name.

Not sure how to set a fraud alert? If you have a Benefits Plus Checking Account, you can do it quickly through its complimentary ID Theft and Security Center. Their online form takes you directly to the credit reporting agencies to set the alert as well as create a reminder to reinstate it after its 90-day expiration.

Shred mail containing personal information

Yes, your mail can pose a risk even when thrown into the trash. Limit that risk by shredding mail or other documents containing non-public information. You might even consider a junk mail reduction service such the one offered through Benefits Plus. It allows you to opt-out of receiving pre-screened credit and loan offers for five years as well as limit catalogs and brochures.

Unfortunately, sometimes these measures aren’t enough. Luckily, Benefits Plus also offers Members Restoration Rescue, a complimentary Identity Theft Restoration Service. This service can provide licensed attorneys specializing in identity theft restoration and may cover all associated expenses under specific circumstances. When you grant a limited power of attorney, lawyers will work on your behalf to help recover your identity and loss of funds, offer assistance in filing a police report, and contacting on your behalf all credit bureaus, creditors, financial institutions and more.

*Value-added benefits of 7 17 Credit Union’s Benefits Plus® Checking are available for a $5 monthly fee ($4 for Members age 50 and older). Some of these benefits need to be purchased at significantly discounted prices to be utilized. Benefits Plus® value-added benefits are also available without a checking account for $9.95 a month.