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New Year’s Resolution: Protect yourself from identity theft

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Fraud and identity theft can happen to almost anyone. Scammers are constantly trying new and different tactics to obtain potential victims’ personal information to use for their own illegitimate gain. As the new year begins, MSUFCU has some helpful tips and suggestions to keep your personal information and identity safe for this year and all the years to come.

SHRED documents containing any kind of personal information before disposing of them.

There are many different documents from which identity thieves can glean personal information. Your social security number is one of the most useful pieces of information to thieves and should be closely guarded, but there is a wealth of other information that can be used for fraudulent purposes. Some of the documents where this information may be found include expired driver’s licenses and passports, medical documents or records, tax information, loan information, credit cards and statements, credit union account statements and paper communications, preapproval mailings and credit reports. If it contains any personal or secure information that you wouldn’t provide on social media, shred it!

BEWARE of social media invitations from people you don’t know.

Social media is prevalent in today’s technology-centric world. With sharing so much of our lives online, it’s important to know exactly who is able to view what you post. Status updates, pictures, opinions and preferences might seem like useless information, but to an identity thief, a surprising amount of data can be found in what might seem mundane. “Soft information” is data that does not directly give scammers access to your identity — account numbers or passwords — but can provide scammers with details about your life to later use for verification or in conversation when applying for loans or services remotely. Having this information allows thieves to present themselves as you when photo or visual identification is not possible, like phone, mail or online applications. Refrain from blindly accepting connection requests on social media to reduce the chances of that happening.

CHECK your credit report regularly.

One of the best ways to monitor identity theft is to regularly monitor your credit report. If a thief has successfully stolen your identity and is opening accounts or services in your name, the most guaranteed way for you to find out is seeing it on a credit report. Scammers open accounts and services in the victim’s name so that when the account is overdrawn or the bill is not paid, the victim is punished instead of the thief. A successful scammer will prevent the victim from finding out for as long as possible, but regularly pulling your credit report allows you to catch any recently opened accounts or services earlier than the scammer would like. While damage may have already been done by the thief, it will be considerably less if caught early. You can receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once per year at annualcreditreport.com. You are able to pull all three reports at once, but you will be able to better monitor your credit report throughout the year if you pull one report every four months. For example: if you request your Equifax report today, in four months you could request your Experian report. Four months after that, you could request your TransUnion report. Four months after that, it will have been a full year since you pulled your Equifax report and you will be able to pull it again for free.


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