March 1-7 is National Consumer Protection Week. Identity theft is someone else’s problem. That is, until it happens to you! The following is a practical guide that offers important steps to follow and ways to enlist help from your financial institution:
- Don’t share your secrets.
Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords.
- Shred sensitive papers.
Shred documents containing personal information before throwing them away.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail.
Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.
- Use online banking and mobile banking to protect yourself.
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
- Monitor your credit report.
Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
- Protect your computer.
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
- Protect your mobile device.
Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices.
- Report ANY suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
- Consider enrolling in MidWestOne’s Identity Theft Restoration service. This service, provided by Deluxe Provent ID Restoration, provides a certified resolution specialist to help you along the way and many other tools to help prevent identity theft in the first place. It costs just $2.00 per month.
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft
- Call the bank and your credit card issuers immediately so they can close your accounts.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit reporting agencies:
- Equifax (800) 525-6285
- Experian (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion (800) 680-7289
- Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at consumer.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
- For more information and advice, visit the FTC’s website at consumer.gov/idtheft.
Be safe, be diligent, and be alert for suspicious activity.