Minerva Area Federal Credit UnionIdentity Theft - Protecting your Good Name

By now you've heard the stories - likely even from a co-worker, close friend or family member – about how identity theft can sneak up on you and snatch your life away. The truth is that up to 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. Thieves use your ill-gotten information like your name, social security number, birthdate and/or credit card number/s to run up credit card debts, write bad checks, empty your bank accounts, and even take out loans in your name.

Unfortunately, it can take years and thousands of dollars to repair the damage and re-build your credit score. Furthermore, the damage to your credit score will likely increase the cost of your insurance coverage and possibly even cause you to lose out on that new job, not to mention that new car loan!

Identity theft can be high tech or very low tech. A common low-tech scheme it to steal your utility bill (including your check) from your mailbox. Skilled identity thieves employ a variety of methods to steal your identification information. These methods include:

  • Dumpster diving – Rummaging through trash (yours or your service provider's)
  • Shoulder Surfing or Skimming – Using an electronic reader to capture your card info (The thief could be the cashier or the person behind you in line.)
  • Phishing – Sending out bogus emails, or calling/texting you directly,  'pretending' to be from your financial institution or credit card company to try to get you to tell them your personal info.
  • Changing your billing address – Your statements are mailed to another address so that it takes longer for you to recognize the theft.
  • Pretexting – Pretending to be you; Calling Financial Institutions trying to obtain info.

Compromised IdentityWhat can you do if your identity is compromised?

  1. File an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC and print a copy to take with you when you file your police report
  2. File a police report and make sure that it has enough details to be considered an Identity Theft Report, which entitles you to certain legal rights when reported to the three major credit bureaus.
  3. Get a copy of the thief's fraudulent credit application, along with all transaction information.
  4. Monitor your financial records to make sure nothing else fraudulent shows up. Review your credit history every three months for the first year and at least once a year after that to verify that no unauthorized credit is reported.

Awareness is very important. Review monthly statements for ALL of your accounts, including: checking, savings and credit cards. DON'T just throw them in a drawer!! Remember too, that most identity thieves know their victims. That means that you are more likely to be targeted by a co-worker, friend, family member or acquaintance than by a total stranger. So be careful where you leave access to your purse or wallet. If you are not an easy target, you are much less likely to be a victim!

Crosscut shred all documents with any personal information.  Don't give out your social security number unless it is absolutely necessary.  Safeguard your password and login codes.  You can also purchase identity theft protection through your homeowners insurance. This protection helps to cover the expenses associated with identity theft and sometimes covers professional services too.

REMEMBER, no financial institution will call, text or email you for ask personal information.  When in doubt, HANG UP!

For more information on preventing, as well as dealing with identity theft, visit the FTC website: