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Identity Theft

Being informed is the best defense against identity theft, the fastest growing financial crime in the world. More than 9 million Americans are affected each year by identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and SFPCU wants to provide the information you need to remain vigilant.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft can take many forms and occurs when someone uses your personal information including your name, Social Security number, bank accounts, etc., to commit fraud or other crimes. Often you will not realize you have been a victim of identity theft until the crime has already caused damage in your life.

How is my information stolen?

There are various ways that criminals can get your personal information without your permission. A common way for criminals to get your information is through skimming the dumpsters for discarded bill, banking statements and credit card offers. Technology allows criminals to steal your personal information by accessing storage devices that process your card information when making purchases online. Also, spam and pop-up messages are used to pose as financial institutions asking for your personal information.

What forms of identity theft can take place?

Criminals use your information to add charges to your existing credit card/debit card, open up new credit cards in your name, write bad checks using your name or bank account number, take out a loan in your name, and even use your name to set up utility and phone services. They can use your name and address to apply for jobs, to give to police if being questioned or arrested, to rent houses or apartments, and to order government identification items such as a driver’s license with their photograph instead of yours.

How do I know if my identity has been stolen?

The best way to ensure that your identity has not been stolen is to monitor your monthly billing and account statements. You can also order a free annual credit report once every 12 months from each of the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies. Order your free annual report online at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or or call toll-free 877.322.8228.

What are some additional resources I can explore to defend myself against identity theft?

SFPCU wants to arm you with as much information as possible to combat identity theft. Use these resources to enhance your understanding.

  • AnnualCreditReport.com - The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) allows consumers to obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. AnnualCreditReport.com provides consumers with the secure means to do so.
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Consumer Credit Counseling - Credit education and free workshops

Credit Bureau Services - There are 3 main credit bureaus you can contact if you need to check and/or dispute your credit

General Protection

  • Guard your Social Security number
  • Make photocopies of vital information
  • Beware of mail or phone solicitations that offer prizes or awards
  • Always shred papers with financial information, including credit card offers, before discarding
  • Check your credit report annually for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Stay updated on the latest identity theft scams

Phone and Mail Precautions

  • Treat all unsolicited calls skeptically and never divulge any personal information
  • Retrieve incoming mail promptly and do not place outgoing mail containing personal information in your mailbox
  • Know your billing and statement cycles to keep bills from lingering in your mailbox

Email and Online Security

  • Do not open or respond to suspicious email
  • Don’t follow a link in an email; always type the website URL in your browser
  • Install firewalls and anti-spyware programs on your computer
 

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