Susan Schneider, Banking Center Manager, Centennial Bank and Trust. If you are concerned about identity theft and the potential for financial losses as a result, you have lots of company. But maybe not enough.
According to a 2016 PwC study, more than 1/3 of organizations have experienced economic crime in the past 24 months, and that could spell disaster for consumers and businesses who are not taking steps to safeguard their financial accounts and other sensitive information.
The first step to avoid fraud and identity theft is to realize it can happen to you and be proactive in protecting your personal or company information. We’ve gathered some information and recommendations that can help reduce the risks and decrease losses if fraud does occur.
First, secure your accounts and personal information by shredding financial documents and paperwork containing personal or corporate information, such as bank statements, receipts, and credit card bills before you discard them. Consider using a safe or a safety deposit box to store important documents.
Protect your Social Security and Tax i.d. or EIN number. Do not carry it with you or write it on checks or other documents. Do not reveal the number unless absolutely necessary or instead provide another form of identification.
Open mail / statements from your bank or other financial institutions and double check the information / balances.
Do not reveal personal information via phone, mail or online unless you are certain of the recipient. Never use an unsecured Wi-Fi network to check your financial information, shop or pay bills—even at home or your place of business. If you don’t have a password protected network, put one in place.
Do not click on links in unsolicited emails. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and be sure to update as necessary. Create strong passwords, security questions and answers. Passwords should have upper and lowercase letters, along with numbers and/or punctuation, so they are non-English words. This helpful link: How Secure is My Password, is a good way to check the strength of your password.
Monitor your financial accounts and statements—and be alert to suspicious activity, including:
Bills that do not arrive as expected.
Unexpected credit cards or account statements
Denials of credit or merchants’ refusal to accept checks
Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
Charges on your financial statements that you do not recognize
Defend against identity theft or fraud immediately if you suspect it has occurred by contacting your bank and other financial institutions
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the following credit bureaus:
Experian – 888-397-3742; http://www.experian.com/
Transunion – 800-680-7289; https://www.transunion.com/
Equifax – 800-525-6285; https://www.transunion.com/
Change your passwords for all accounts that may be compromised.
Consider closing accounts that may be compromised.
Monitor your financial accounts and credit reports for suspicious activity.
Report the identity theft to the FTC: 877-438-4338; https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
To safeguard yourself or your business against fraud remember to protect personal or corporate information, and monitor financial statements and credit activity. Contact your bank and the credit bureaus to check for unauthorized charges or suspicious activity, and report any suspected fraud or stolen personal information.