Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

By Patrick Harris
Director of Media and Public Relations
Ohio Credit Union League
800-486-2917, ext. 212

Identity fraud is on the rise. In fact, someone falls victim to identity fraud every two seconds, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

And in 2013, the number of victims rose by more than 500,000, to 13.1 million, the second highest number since the study began 11 years ago.

Despite the increase in victims, the amount criminals stole in 2013 decreased by $3 billion, to $18 billion, a signal that the fraud protection actions taken by financial institutions, identity theft-protection providers, and consumers are having some success.

More than half of Ohioans are currently monitoring their credit reports as a means of fraud protection and feel their financial information is secure, according to the Ohio Credit Union League’s 2014 Mid-Year Consumer Survey.

How can you take actions to minimize the risk of identity theft and prevent losses?

Monitor accounts and check credit report
With more access and control over your personal finances than ever before, be sure to check your account activity daily, and request a free credit report annually, available by calling any of the three national credit reporting companies (phone numbers available below).

Limit the items you carry in your wallet or purse
This minimizes your exposure to losses if these are lost or stolen. And, don’t keep your PINs in the same place you keep your cards.

Keep online information secure
Make passwords robust with multiple types of characters (upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols).

Don’t be fooled
E-mail and text messages that require you to provide your personal information put you at risk for identity theft. If you are ever in doubt, ask somebody you trust, such as your credit union, if an offer is real, reasonable, or just another attempt to trick you into giving personal information away.

Register for a credit-monitoring service
Proactively take control of your credit by investing in a reporting service, which actively monitors their customers’ credit and can respond much more effectively to prevent identity theft. Note: there is typically a fee for this.

Should your information be compromised and you fall victim to ID theft, immediately place a fraud alert on your account by calling one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax: 800-525-6285; Experian: 888-397-3742; TransUnion: 800-680-7289). This will make it more difficult for an identity thief to continue opening accounts in your name.

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