According to a recent Javelin Strategy & Research report, over 11.6 million Americans fell victim to identity theft last year. Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and we at HCFCU feel it is essential to help educate our members on how to protect yourself and, if fraudulent activity occurs, how to deal with it.
- ID Theft Form
Simply put, identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.
Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
Review your monthly statements. Look for irregularities or unusual purchases that could indicate fraudulent activity.
Shred sensitive documents. After reviewing, shred all documents that contain personal, financial and medical information before you throw them away.
Be careful of what you disclose. Never respond to e-mail, text or phone messages that ask for personal information. HCFCU and other legitimate companies will never ask for sensitive information in that manner.
Change your passwords. Create passwords that mix letters, number and special characters. Don’t use the same password for more than one account and change them regularly.
Use encrypted websites. If you shop or bank online, only use websites that protect your financial information with encryption. An encrypted website will have “https” at the beginning of the web address; “s” is for secure.
Place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert lets creditors know to contact you before opening new accounts. Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies below, and the agency will automatically file your fraud alert with the other two reporting agencies.
Request your credit reports. Request your credit reports and review them carefully. Look for accounts you have not opened or for inquiries from companies that you did not initiate. Also look for any inaccurate personally identifiable information, such as your home address. If you see something on your report that you do not understand, call the credit reporting agency at the number on your report for an explanation.
Monitor your credit reports and accounts. Even if you do not detect any unauthorized activity on your credit reports or credit union accounts, you should closely monitor both for the next 12 to 24 months.
Renew your fraud alert. An initial fraud alert filed with the credit reporting agencies is only valid for 90 days, after which time it must be renewed in order to keep it active. Each time you renew your initial fraud alert, you can request a copy of your credit report.
Promptly report any suspicious or unauthorized activity. If you detect suspicious or unauthorized activity on your credit report, on your credit union accounts or with regard to any other financial business of yours, contact us immediately at (713) 755-5160.
For more information on identity theft and how to protect yourself, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website or the Identity Theft Resource Center.