Tips & Advice
Information to Help Protect your Identity
Presented by Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security
By now you've heard that Equifax Inc., one of the "big three" credit reporting companies, announced that they'd been hacked, and that personal information for roughly 143 million consumers was stolen.
The question I've been asked most is, "Was my identity stolen?". Unfortunately, it's safer to assume the answer is, yes. But "identity theft" covers a lot of different threats, ranging from credit card fraud to the creation of a fake persona, where someone assumes your identity, based on stolen information.
The threat from this kind of breach is two-fold.
First, bad guys may use this information to open deposit accounts or loans, then using them for a quick profit through fraudulent transactions that leave the credit union on the hook for the stolen funds. Second, such activity done in your name will likely damage your credit, even if you are not responsible financially.
The worst kind of identity theft is based on personal information from children and the elderly, for the same reason: they are less likely to need new credit and monitor their existing accounts.
It's common for criminals to steal a newborn child's name, birthday and Social Security Number, open credit accounts with it, and go to town. The parents usually are unaware of any of this until the child gets old enough to apply for their own credit card, at which time they learn that their credit rating is horrible.
Elderly targets can suffer even more, because they have actual assets that may be stolen in the process. Recovery from any of these events can be difficult and costly.
Here are two fast and easy steps you can take to stop identity theft when it starts, before too much damage is done.
1. Get in the habit of checking your accounts for unusual activity, and call your credit union when you see it.
2. Watch for warning signs like missing card bills, problems getting new credit, and even unexpected packages on your doorstep.
It's important to know that breaches like this will continue, but if you can take control of your financial accounts and stay on top of them, you will make it a lot harder for the bad guys to profit from your (and your family's good credit).
How to Report Identity Theft
Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 877-438-4338.