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Protecting yourself against identity theft

Realizing someone has stolen your identity brings waves of emotions. Anger that your information was compromised. Fear about what’s going to happen next. Anxiety over your finances.

Taking smart, swift action is important. So is being proactive about your future security. Read on for tips and resources to help protect yourself against identity theft.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to perpetuate fraud. Maybe they use your name to open credit cards, take out loans or leases, or set up utility accounts. Identity theft often shows up in your financial life. But it’s also common with medical records, government benefit programs, or even your children’s information.

How does my identity get stolen?

There are many ways thieves gain access to your personal information. Maybe an organization you trusted suffers a data breach. Malware, viruses, spoofing, income tax scams, and phishing attempts are other common tactics. Using these schemes, hackers get Social Security numbers, banking passwords, and other private data. With this info, they can try to set up accounts in your name.    

Signs your identity was stolen

Keep an eye out for these common indicators of identity theft:

  • Charges you know you didn’t make appear on your statements
  • You get bills for services you’ve never used
  • The IRS notifies you a tax return has already been filed in your name
  • Loans or credit applications are declined, but your credit is typically good
  • Your credit score changes unexpectedly
  • Debt collectors call about accounts you’ve never opened

What to do if your identity is stolen

As soon as you believe someone is pretending to be you, take action.

Place fraud alerts on your credit reports

Fraud alerts require businesses to take reasonable, extra steps to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. You only need to file a fraud alert with one of the three nationwide credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian. The credit bureau you contact must pass the request on to the other two bureaus.

Request and review your credit reports

Federal law allows you to receive a free credit report annually from each of the major credit reporting agencies. It’s easy to request at annualcreditreport.com. Review the reports carefully for anything suspicious. What you find will inform follow-up actions you may need to take.  

Freeze or lock your credit

These actions seal your credit reports, stopping new lines of credit from being opened. Freezing your credit won’t affect your credit score. Credit monitoring services can still access your information and send you alerts about suspicious activity. Locking credit is an optional product a credit bureau may offer, sometimes for a fee.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission

You’ll receive a personal recovery plan with resources to assist you. Set up an account to use progress trackers, pre-filled forms, and letters. If someone is using your information to open new accounts or make purchases, report it directly to the FTC.

For tax-related fraud, also alert the IRS fraud alert department

Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return as you work through reclaiming your identity. You may need to paper file if an electronic return is rejected as a duplicate filing.

Report the theft to police

In some cases of identity theft, you may need a police report. This could be helpful for insurance purposes, to dispute errors with banks or credit bureaus, and to provide as evidence to creditors. Reporting the crime may also help authorities investigating and working to recover stolen funds or assets.

Contact Numerica

Let Numerica know about the identity theft so we can help safeguard your accounts. Call us at 800.433.1837.

Change any exposed passwords

It’s no joke that “password” and “123456” appear on last year’s top 200 most common passwords list. Strengthen your passwords by making them at least 12 characters. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Pro tip: Password managers make storing unique, complex passwords simple. Plus, they can help you change affected passwords quickly if your identity is stolen.

Create your own identity theft report

As you take steps to respond to your stolen identity, document everything you do. Record the dates and times you call organizations and services. Write down confirmation numbers. Having your identity stolen can be an overwhelming experience. Do whatever you can to stay organized.

Ways to protect your identity every day

A few smart habits can help limit your exposure to identity thieves. Consider these proactive steps.

Freeze misplaced or lost cards

If you have a Numerica credit or debit card, card freeze is a toggle switch in Online Banking and the Mobile App. This temporarily freezes your account, and can easily be unfrozen when you find your missing card. If you don’t find it, you can rest easy that no one else can use it.

Set up fraud text alerts

With Numerica, you can get real-time fraud alerts for free. These alerts put you in the driver’s seat for reviewing suspicious account activity right when it happens.

Choose public Wi-Fi connections carefully

If you must use public Wi-Fi, turn off your “auto-connect to wireless networks” option. Only use https sites and never log in to a network that isn’t password protected.

Enable “find my phone”

With everything saved on phones these days, misplacing one is anxiety-inducing. Enable lock screens and turn on software that will help you pinpoint a device’s location.

ATM best practices

At an unfamiliar ATM, always check for exposed wires, bulkiness where you would insert your card, or anything that looks out of place. These are possible signs of skimming devices that can lift data from your card.

Keep your PIN safe

Never write your PIN on or near your card. Protect your card by keeping this number a secret. To update a Numerica PIN, stop by a branch, call 800.433.1837, or use a Numerica ATM.

Be vigilant on vacation

Resist the urge to post a play-by-play of your vacation on social media. Stop your mail at the post office. And only travel with the cards and documents you really need. Make copies of the documents you’re bringing, and leave them in a safe place at home.

Numerica: your partner in the fight against fraud

Numerica is with you every step of the way when it comes to battling fraud and keeping your accounts secure. Visit our library of fraud and security resources for more articles to help keep you safe.

Whether you want to talk through questions about data breaches, best practices to protect yourself, or any correspondence you receive that looks suspicious, we’re here. Just drop into your favorite branch or call 800.433.1837.

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April 16, 2024