Keeping your accounts safe from thieves starts with taking a few proactive steps. This approach may sound simple, but early fraud detection can help reduce the threat to your personal information and your good credit. Here are some tips on how to detect account takeover fraud and on how to protect your identity from being stolen.
How to detect account takeover fraud
Fraud occurs when your account information or credit card is used to make unauthorized purchases. Identity theft — or ID theft — occurs when a thief uses your personal details to commit fraud or other crimes. Protect yourself against fraud and identity theft by recognizing the signs of suspicious activity. Take note if bills that routinely arrive on time suddenly go missing. When checking your account statements, ensure there are no unexpected charges or charges from unknown vendors. Check to see if there are checks that post out of sequence.
In addition, make sure that when bills do arrive, they belong to accounts you recognize. Also take note of calls or letters from creditors or debt collectors about outstanding balances on accounts you didn’t open (or didn’t know existed). Unexplained instances of being denied credit or of receiving less favorable credit terms could mean someone else is trying to use your account information or identity.
Review your credit report often to uncover early signs that something isn’t right with your credit accounts. Every four months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com, the official site operated by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
An ounce of prevention can go a long way toward reducing your chances of being a victim of fraud and identity theft.
How to avoid being a victim of fraud
Try to stay ahead of thieves by reducing your risk of account fraud. Be cautious when sharing your personal details, like your credit card or Social Security number. Don’t offer either number unless you have initiated the contact and confirmed the recipient's identity. If you must share your card number by phone, be aware of your surroundings so as not to be overheard. Avoid using any part of your Social Security number as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or password. Finally, leave your Social Security card at home instead of carrying it in your wallet.
Switch to electronic account statements to shrink the volume of paper you receive and prevent thieves from stealing your personal data from the mailbox. Combine that effort with the use of Direct Deposit whenever possible to eliminate the need for live paychecks.
Keep your Social Security card and a list of your credit card numbers in a fire-resistant safe or a Credit Union safe deposit box, in case your cards are lost or stolen.
What to do if you think you’re a victim of fraud
It’s important to act right away if you think your identity has been stolen or your account has been compromised. First, contact the Credit Union at 888.732.8562. Next, close affected accounts where possible and change online PINs and passwords to prevent thieves from doing further damage. Be sure to file a police report and retain a copy for creditors and others who require proof of the identity theft.
If your account has been compromised, contact one of the three major credit bureaus to add a fraud alert to your account.
After that, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (see contact details above) to add a fraud alert to your credit file. This step can be especially helpful if you're unsure how your account was compromised. Whichever credit bureau you contact will notify the other two of your request.
Once the alerts are activated, your creditors will contact you before any new accounts are opened in your name. Be sure to file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once on the FTC site you can find resources for making an identity theft recovery plan.