Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft and debit/credit fraud are serious crimes that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation. Although thieves can obtain and use your personal information or account numbers at moment's notice, these crimes often take a great deal of time, money, and patience to resolve.
Washington Financial Bank is committed to fighting these crimes and assisting you in protecting your finances. You can help to safeguard your finances and deter criminals by following these key steps.
Protect Your Identity
Identity theft occurs in many forms, but can generally be defined as when an individual wrongfully obtains or uses another's personal information in order to commit theft, fraud, or other financial crimes. Thieves look to obtain all types of personal information including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, street addresses, city of birth, passport numbers, mother's maiden, father's middle, or pet's names. You can protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft by following these tips:
- Never give out personal information to anyone unless you've initiated the contact.
- When you leave your home, take only the identification, and debit or credit cards you need.
- Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, insurance forms, checks, and statements.
Never place outgoing mail in your residential street-side mailbox. Instead take outgoing mail to a blue USPS collection box or visit a post office directly.
- If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don't click on links in the email. Instead call the customer service number listed on your statement.
- Don't overshare personal information like those listed above on social network sites (Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn). An identity thief can use this information to answer 'challenge' questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information.
- Opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers by going to www.optoutprescreen.com.
Protect Your Accounts
You don't have to lose your card to become a victim of debit or credit fraud. Thieves can obtain your account numbers from discarded statements, spying on you as you use an ATM, or by distracting you momentarily while an accomplice copies your information. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of debit card fraud:
- Avoid having statements stolen from your mailbox by signing up for online statements, then log in daily and look for unfamiliar transactions.
- Sign the back of your debit or credit cards.
- Choose a PIN you can easily remember - but are not easy to guess. Birthdates, house, or phone numbers make for poor PINs.
- Never write your PIN on a slip of paper that you keep in your purse or wallet.
- Shred receipts from your card transactions.
- Verify the website you're visiting is secure (https://) before you enter personal information.
- Don't allow anyone else to use your debit or credit cards.
- Shield the ATM or card reader keypad with your hand or body while entering your PIN.
- Never leave your wallet or purse unattended.
- If you notice your debit card is missing, call Washington Financial immediately.
If You Become A Victim
The tips listed above can help deter crime, yet despite best efforts, a determined criminal can still access your information. If fraud occurs on your account, or you become the victim of identity theft, there are numerous resources to assist you in clearing your name.
- Contact your financial institution — If you spot unauthorized charges on an account, immediately contact that institution and have them freeze the account. Different issuers have different policies; however, most creditors will promptly issue replacement cards with new account numbers.
- Contact law enforcement — Although local police may not be able to directly assist you, they can provide documentation verifying to future creditors that you have been a crime victim.
- Check your credit report — Each of the three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion may show different information about your credit history. It is critical to contact each agency and request a copy of their report. The agencies are required, by law, to provide an annual copy of your report to you free of charge.
- File a fraud alert — Contact any one of the three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion and open a fraud alert. Newly opened accounts may take several months to show up on a credit report. Placing a fraud alert will assist you in keeping updated on changes to your credit profile.
- Contact the government — The federal government, operating under the recently established Financial Federal Enforcement Task Force, offers advice on how cases of suspected fraud can be submitted to federal agencies. The Federal Trade Commission can also assist you in completing an Identity Theft Report.