Photo by Jeffrey Newcomer. partridgebrookreflections.com

What is Identity Theft and How Can I Protect Myself?

Identity Theft refers to the impersonation of someone else, typically to obtain credit, access bank accounts or file for a tax refund in that person’s name. Victims of identity theft who don’t have money stolen may have trouble taking out a loan or obtaining their legitimate tax refund.

As a result of the prevalence of identity theft banks are required to take extra measures to identify customers. Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Limit who you share your social security number with. Employers and entities which pay you interest or dividends are required to obtain your SSN for tax reporting purposes. Question whether there is a legitimate reason for others to ask you for it – it may not be required.
  2. Check your credit history annually at http://annualcreditreport.com. There are three credit reporting agencies represented on this site and you are entitled to a free annual report from each of them. If you spread your requests out you can get one every four months. Look for evidence of loans that you have not requested.
  3. Beware of oversharing on social networking sites. If the answers to your security questions at banks or other websites are available for all to see on Facebook it cuts down on their effectiveness.
  4. Beware of Phishing attempts. Legitimate companies should not prompt you to share your personal information via email, Facebook or other non-secure means.
  5.  Make sure web sites where you access bank account or other personal information are secured by SSL encryption. Look for the lock in your browser’s address bar.
  6. Check your accounts online frequently and let us know right away if you see unauthorized transactions.
  7. Set up the alerts found on the Settings Menu in Internet Banking. You can be alerted by email, text, or phone call immediately if someone attempts to log into your account and fails, if your balance goes below (or above) a certain amount, or if an internet banking transaction exceeds a threshold you set.