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Elevate CUJun 27, 2024 6:34:44 PM3 min read

How To Avoid Identity Theft

How to avoid identity theft

Cyber thieves who access one’s personally identifiable information (PII) such as birthdate, Social Security number, home address, driver’s license number, passport number, and credit card or bank account information can use it to open accounts,  buy expensive items, or even pay their bills. But there are things that we can do to help protect our personal information. So, here are a few ways to protect your information and avoid identity theft.

Data Breaches

Data breaches within major companies have exposed hundreds of millions of consumers to hackers. In 2020 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) monitored almost 1.4 million complaints of identity theft, with over $3.3 billion stolen by identity thieves. Many scammers claimed to be officials from government departments and accessed victims’ pandemic unemployment benefits.

Safer payment option

Credit cards are a bit safer than debit cards in terms of fraud, as the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act protects consumers from liability in credit card fraud over $50. However, as currency itself diversifies through the advent of cryptocurrency, some fraudsters now demand access to the target's crypto accounts because they are difficult to trace, which helps them evade law enforcement.

Those most vulnerable

The elderly are the age group most vulnerable to scammers, as they are less likely to create strong online passwords and less likely to be wary of prank callers posing as tax collectors or relatives purporting to be in dire financial straits. They also often provide extensive personal information to many doctors or caregivers, with access by many staff members at facilities.

But even those who consider themselves tech-savvy and invincible can fall prey to skilled scammers. Even a child’s information can be stolen, and parents may be unaware of that until many years later when trying to open or access accounts for them.

14 Tips to Avoid Identity Theft:

  1. A PIN or strong password is required to unlock devices and accounts and perform 2-step verification. And don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  2. Always use updated security software (i.e., Norton) on your devices.
  3. Regularly sign in to online accounts to monitor transactions. 
  4. Switch to paperless statements for less sensitive info in your mail.
  5. Put alerts on your accounts to get reports for suspicious transactions.
  6. Freeze your credit report so others can’t open accounts in your name.
  7. Shred old documents, like statements, tax forms, and medical bills.
  8. File your tax returns early.
  9. Don’t open emails, click links, or answer calls from suspicious sources.
  10. Please don’t carry your Social Security card or documents with your SSN.
  11. Don’t share your SSN by phone unless you are 100% sure who they are and why they are asking.
  12. Do not use public Wi-Fi for online banking, shopping, or checking your email or social media.
  13. Don’t leave personal info in your car, even if it is locked.
  14. Invest in identity theft protection (like LifeLock) to monitor, detect, and alert you to potential ID theft activity.

If you fall prey to identity theft:

  1. Contact at least 1 of the 3 main credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax.
  2. Report it to the FTC at or call 877 438 4338.

Now you know how to avoid identity theft and what to do if you fall prey. We hope that with these tips, you will not become a sufferer of identity theft. If you see suspicious activity on your account, call us right away. If we are not in the branch, you can always place a hold on your cards through online banking and the mobile app. Check out more ways to protect yourself from fraud and our other MoneySmart Tips.