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Money Tips: How to Protect Your Identity

Money Tips: How to Protect Your Identity

Although your credit union works hard to educate you and its other members about the various types of online fraud that exist such as phishing, skimming, and similar scams, there are other forms of identity theft out there. Credit Unions Online wants you to know there are also other ways, besides your credit union account, that ID thieves can access your personal information and victimize you. It is important to be vigilant when it comes to your identity, taking the proper precautions to always protect yourself. By taking the time to follow some smart tips, you can keep your financial information safe and secure, and beat ID thieves at their own game!

10 Tips for Protecting Your Personal Information from Credit Unions Online

  1. Shred, shred, shred.

It is very important to always shred any personal documents that are not being used including:

When in doubt, it is better to be safe than sorry. A good rule of thumb is to shred any document that includes any of the following:

A decent shredder can be obtained from any office supply store for $100-$150…a small price to pay compared to that which would result from a stolen identity. If you’re not in the market for a personal shredder, many community organizations, including credit unions, will periodically offer free shredding events open to the local community.

  1. Practice PIN & password safety.

Be sure to protect any personal identification numbers, passwords, and user IDs. Never write this information down, keep it in your wallet, or save it on a computer or Website. Also, make PINs, passwords and user IDs complex enough not to be guessed and be aware of your surroundings when using your PIN to check out at a store or when using the ATM.

  1. Shop smart.

Whether in-store or online, beware of thieves and practice safe shopping. In stores and restaurants, women should carry purses tightly and close to the body, and men should carry wallets in their front pocket. Obviously, never leave personal belongings unattended. When doing online shopping, ensure that the website is secure by checking for the "lock" icon on your browser and the “https” in the URL – unsafe sites are missing the ‘s’. Also, keep anti-virus software and firewalls up-to-date for maximum protection.

  1. Mix up passwords.

In this technologically driven day and age where we conduct so much of our business and personal lives online, we’re always being asked to create or remember a particular password in order to access one of our many accounts or portals. Although we’d like to be able to stick with a single (and very memorable) password for all of our uses, it is really best to switch things up. In the event that one of your accounts gets compromised and the intruder tries to do the same with another, their plan will be foiled. Though this may take some extra brainwork on your part, it will be well worth it to avoid the hassles associated with ID theft.

  1. Go with direct deposit.

Direct deposit of your paycheck, Social Security, pension, or tax return checks is the smartest option for avoiding a thief. When a check is sent via mail, you run the risk of having it intercepted by an unscrupulous individual who can easily use acid wash to change the name of the recipient on your check. Unfortunately, mail theft is more common that most of us might think.

  1. Keep personal information personal.

Never give out personal information to strangers over the phone or via email or text. Despite any convincing solicitations or phone calls you may receive, it is best to politely decline no matter who they claim to be. Also report any calls, emails, or texts claiming to be from your credit union and requesting personal information…your credit union will NEVER do this for any reason since they already have your information.

  1. Practice safe computer disposal.

Are you ready to replace your outdated desktop for a sleeker and more efficient laptop? If so, you might be wondering exactly what to do with your old PC. The first thing you should do, to be safe and secure, is to erase all information from the computer’s hard drive. After years of use, you have accumulated all sorts of personal data on your machine; if this landed in the wrong hands it could be devastating. To be sure the hard drive has been scoured before tossing it, use some type of data destruction software such as Disk Wipe which will permanently delete all of the data and prevent recovery.

  1. Put on a mailbox lock.

A simple way to keep your personal information safe and secure is to lock your mailbox. Only you (and anyone else that you furnish with a key) will be able to remove mail from the box, but your postal carrier will still be able to put mail into the box.

  1. Do a credit report check.

Check your credit score every four months, using different credit score companies each time. This will provide some insight into the status of your identity. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act gives consumers the ability to secure one copy of their credit report for free from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Free credit reports are available from

  1. Make your network secure.

If you have a wireless network for personal or business use, it is important to secure it in order to deter hackers who can easily and quickly take advantage of anyone with an unsecured network. By locking the router and encrypting your info, your network will become secure; this can be done relatively easily by following the instructions that came with your router.

In addition, when working online or surfing the Web, there are some simple rules you can follow to lessen your chances of being the victim of an ID thief. Avoid opening spam, which are often viruses and phishing attempts in disguise. Better yet, set up a system for filtering junk email so that it never enters your In-box and can be automatically deleted without wasting your time or putting your security in jeopardy. Also, limit sharing personal info including account numbers and passwords on the Web, especially on non-secure sites. While many web-based programs such as Facebook, Google Calendars and the like, help us stay connected and organized, they can also put us at risk if not used carefully and within reason.

By Cyndi Cohen
Published January 27, 2012
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