Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of COVID-related identity thefts and scams the past few weeks, so now more than ever it’s important to protect yourself from identity theft. Here are five tips to consider!
- Do not provide personal information unless you initiated the contact – it is VERY rare that a legitimate financial institution will ask for sensitive personal information over the phone or through an email, unless it’s regarding a subject where you initiated the contact. If you believe it might be a legitimate call or email, contact them back by looking up the organization’s contact information from a different, reliable source.
- Regularly check your credit report – regularly checking your credit report is one of the few ways to see if someone has opened up a credit account using your personal information. Normally, you can check your credit report for free, once per year from each of the three major credit bureaus at com, however, until April 2021, you can now get weekly credit reports for free! If you see an account that does not belong to you, contact the creditor and send a formal dispute to the credit bureau (each credit bureau has an online tool for this), which they typically have to investigate within 30 days.
- Shred anything containing personal information – make sure to shred any sensitive information (such as credit receipts, account statements, pre-approved credit applications, etc.) before throwing it away. This includes any financial statements or documents that have information such as your Social Security number or credit card number.
- Safeguard your account information – there should be no situation where your financial institution would need your account ID or password! If you’re unsure if a request is legitimate, call the financial institution back yourself, by looking up their number, and not using one they gave you.
- Use unique passwords that you’re capable of memorizing – have passwords with a good mix of characters and numbers, and add at least one symbol, but don’t use a string of number or letters that would be easy for someone to guess, such as your birthday, anniversary, or college name. However, it should also be something you’re able to remember. One way to accomplish this, pick a word and number you know you’d remember, but interchange the numbers and characters and add a symbol. For example – “beach” and “90488” could become the password b9e0a4c8h8!