Protecting Your Identity and Credit
What You Can Do
Thoroughly examine your credit report regularly
Make sure to verify your credit reports at least annually to ensure that all accounts that exist are in your name and valid. Check all three major agencies:
- Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
- Experian (1-888-397-3742)
- TransUnions (1-800-680-7289)
*Other websites may offer free reports, but many of them require you purchase monitoring services; they also do not have the ability to fix incorrect information.
You can also request that a phone call be placed before any credit can be obtained by contacting the major credit agencies listed above. This can seriously deter cyber criminals from obtaining your identity, but it will also mean that you will have to validate all credit inquiries and may not have access to your line of credit right away.
Shred/Secure all personal information
Most criminals can get all the information they need just by going through your trash! Make sure that you shred all personal identifying information before you place it into your trash bins. Keep important documents like statements, tax paperwork, and credit reports filed away in a locked storage container!
Watch your mail
Anyone can easily access your personal information from the mail. Monitor your mail by sending outgoing letters through the post office or an official mail box instead of your home mail box. Consider purchasing a locked mail box. You can also choose not to receive some pre-approved credit offers by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT.
Clean your wallet
Carry only the one credit/debit card that you will be using to make your purchases; this will lower the information that can be obtained if you lose your wallet or have it stolen. It is good practice to keep a photocopy of all major credit cards in a locked container so you can have easy access to your account information in the case of a lost card. Never keep your Social Security card in your wallet- always keep it in a safe, locked container!
Monitor your Social Security and Driver's License number
Having this information makes it much easier for a thief to convince a store clerk not to ask for an ID. Don't have this information printed anywhere on your checks or used as an account number. Don't provide either bit of information unless your trust the entity you are providing it to.
Recovering from Identity Theft
If you have already been a victim, there are several steps to take to help get your credit back on track. Begin the following process as soon as you find that your identity has been used fraudulently:
- Immediately cancel all open credit accounts and bank accounts; inform the institutions that your identity has been compromised and that you need to establish new account numbers for all accounts as soon as possible.
- Contact the three Major credit agencies (listed above) immediately to obtain a copy of your reports. Review them for all unlawful uses of your credit and report them. Request a fraud alert be established on your reports until the situation is resolved.
- Request copies of all fruadulently acquired credit accounts for a police file. Many times people know the person who unlawfully used their identity and are able to identify them by their signature.
- Document all correspondence and action taken during your investigation. It it is not resolved to your satisfaction, fill out a complaint on the Federal Trade Commission's website www.ftc.gov.
CYBER SAFETY FOR STUDENTS
As summer break ends, many students will return to school with mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Although these devices can help students complete schoolwork and stay in touch with family and friends, there are risks associated with using them. However, there are simple steps that can help students stay safe while using their internet-connected devices.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends reviewing the following resources for more information on cyber safety for students: