Headlines about credit card fraud and stolen identities can be intimidating, but it doesn’t mean you need to keep your cash stashed in your mattress. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft.As a part of its ongoing series of free webinars, SAC FCU recently broadcast a discussion about protecting your credit and preventing fraud. Julie Bruning, Vice President of Consumer Lending, and Keli Wragge, Vice President of Operations, offered valuable insights about protecting your identity.
Read on for a summary or listen to the full webinar here.
Protecting your credit and identity
While SAC FCU is always looking for ways to help protect your personal information (for instance, upcoming credit cards with chips will scramble data each time the card is used), you should also take an active role in protecting yourself.
Because it affects things like loan interest rates, apartment leases, and even job prospects, it’s imperative to take care of your credit. One important line of defense is monitoring your credit reports. The Fair Credit Report Act of 2003 mandated that consumers receive a free credit report once a year from each of the three main credit bureaus.
You can access your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com (the only federal government-authorized site at which to do this). SAC FCU recommends spreading the three free reports throughout the year, requesting one report (from one of the credit bureaus) every four months. To do this, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and:
1. Fill out the on-screen form
2. Pick one report from one of the companies
3. Complete the request and review process to verify your identity
Once you have the report, review it carefully. You’ll see a number of different sections:
- Credit summary. An overview of your credit.
- Account information. A list of accounts – both opened and closed. Review this carefully and make sure everything is in the correct standing.
- Inquiries. This shows who pulled your credit. Make sure you were aware of and authorized these requests. If you didn’t, it could mean there has been fraudulent activity.
- Negative information. Details about lawsuits, collections, and other negative information associated with your account.
- Personal information. Your address and contact info.
- Disputing information. Instructions for disputing incorrect info.
- Summary of rights. How to remedy ID theft and rights under state laws.
Best practices to keep your credit safe
There are several way to protect yourself. For instance, you should:
- Carry only one credit card
- Keep personal documents in a safe-deposit box
- While shopping, keep your card in sight and question merchants if you see the card being swiped multiple times
- Shop only on secure sites online (look for “https” in the URL)
- Reconcile your accounts at least once a month, and immediately notify your financial institution if something is amiss
- Keep your contact information up-to-date with banks
- Notify your financial institution of travel plans and never give out account details
It’s also important to shred any physical documents that contain personal information. SAC FCU offers free shredding events to securely dispose of sensitive documents.
What to do if you suspect ID theft
If you ever need to close an account, SAC FCU has instant-issue cards available at every branch to replace a debit card that’s been compromised. In the event of fraud, you might also consider putting a fraud alert on your credit. You can do this by contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
The webinar ends with a Q&A with more information on fraud alerts, fraud monitoring services, shred days, what to do if you’ve been a victim of id theft, and more. Listen to the webcast for more information.
What’s your favorite tip for keeping your credit in tip-top shape? Share it in the comments below.
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