Identity theft remains on the rise. Almost 10 percent of Americans will be victims of identity theft each year, and the losses can be devastating. Aside from financial losses, identity theft may leave long lasting impacts. It is critical to take steps to protect yourself.
The No. 1 way to avoid identity theft is to use extreme caution with sharing any personal information. Some of the most effective scams use phone calls and e-mails to solicit critical information.
For example, a thief may call pretending to collect on a bill or representing a bank or the IRS in an attempt to gain personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license info or passwords.
Another example is automated phone calls about a blocked or compromised debit card. The Bank does not make automated phone calls.
Experts recommend never responding to unsolicited requests for personal information or payments. If someone calls or e-mails attempting to collect personal information, offer to contact them back via a verified phone number or in person. Be wary of all unsolicited calls and e-mails.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers these other tips for avoiding identity fraud:
- Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information. It doesn’t matter how legitimate the e-mail or website may look. Only open e-mails that look like they are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable. Be especially wary of fraudulent e-mails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes;
- Shred old receipts, account statements, and unused credit card offers;
- Choose PINs and passwords that would be difficult to guess and avoid using easily identifiable information such as your mother’s maiden name, birth dates, the last four digits of your social security number, or phone numbers;
- Pay attention to billing cycles and account statements and contact your bank if you don’t receive a monthly bill or statement since identity thieves often divert account documentation;
- Review account statements thoroughly to ensure all transactions are authorized;
- Guard your mail from theft, promptly remove incoming mail, and do not leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox with the flag up for pick up by your mail carrier;
- Obtain your free credit report annually and review your credit history to ensure it is accurate;
- Use an updated security program to protect your computer; and
- Be careful about where and how you conduct financial transactions; for example, don’t use an unsecured Wi-Fi network because someone might be able to access the information you are transmitting or viewing.
For more information on protecting yourself against identity theft, visit FDIC.gov.