Learn How to Protect Your Identity and Preserve Your Peace of Mind
Daily headlines about data breaches are distressing. Hackers access personal information like social security numbers, account details, and addresses of millions of people in the U.S. every year. According to credit reporting agency Experian, 2017 saw almost 179 million data records exposed, a four-fold increase over the prior year. Unfortunately, Michigan ranked #1 in reported identity thefts per capita.
Identity theft is a common outcome of a data breach that leads to credit card, tax, utilities, and bank fraud. Fraudulent activity cost consumers more than $900 million last year.
The good news is that banks in Michigan (and across the country) make ongoing efforts to protect their customers information. With online banking enabling customers to complete transactions using the internet, banks use a multi-step approach to safeguard your money. Bank protection systems keep information safe from hackers and verify the identities of people accessing accounts.
In addition to implementing strong security practices, Michigan banks offer the following recommendations to help you reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud with your accounts.
Keep Your Personal Information Private
We've become accustomed to using the internet and the telephone to connect with companies. But unless you've initiated the contact or are fully satisfied the connection is legitimate, don't share identifying information such as:
- Social security number
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
Although our lives seem filled with passwords and codes, they represent another useful barrier against theft and fraud. Use these tips with your passwords:
- Follow password ‘rules' and use upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and characters that can't be easily associated with you.
- Change passwords at least annually on your most sensitive accounts.
- When asked for your mother’s maiden name to verify your identity, consider using a password or choose a familiar but untraceable name that you’ll remember.
Protecting your information and the documents you need to keep is possible by:
- Picking up your mail promptly. The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers several additional suggestions for keeping your mail safe. One of the more important recommended precautions is putting outgoing mail in letter slots in the Post Office or handing it to your mail carrier. Less safe options include leaving outgoing mail in your mailbox or using the blue curbside mailboxes.
- Storing personal information in a locked box, file cabinet, or safe.
- Transferring important documentation to a safe deposit box at your bank.
To guard your privacy after an interaction or a purchase, destroy printed documents such as:
- Credit card receipts
- Copies of insurance forms
- Physicians’ statements
- Historical checking and savings account statements
- Credit card offers that include your pre-printed name and address
Use Caution with Technology and Transactions
The rise of e-commerce lets us shop conveniently and easily from a home computer, tablet or smartphone. E-commerce also increases your vulnerability to identity thieves, so use these guidelines to increase your peace of mind:
- Look for ‘https’ in the website address for e-commerce sites. The ‘s’ means the page is secure.
- Verify that stores advertising on Instagram and Facebook are reputable by checking with the Better Business Bureau or researching online reviews.
- Invest in anti-virus and firewall security for your computer and be cautious about automatically saving your passwords and credit card details.
- Remember that hackers sometimes send fraudulent emails with logos from banks, credit card companies, or other businesses. Never click on a link or enter personal information into an unsolicited email. Avoid replying to unsolicited emails directly or calling a phone number listed within the email. Call the company using a verified phone number to confirm the legitimacy of the request.
Get Support to Protect Your Identity
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates that the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies provide free reports annually to consumers.
Instead of contacting each credit reporting agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends ordering online at annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports or calling 1.877.322.8228. You’ll receive all 3 reports after providing your name, address, social security number and date of birth as verification of your identity.
Use the following telephone numbers for each agency to report fraud:
Equifax - www.equifax.com
Experian - www.experian.com
- 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion - www.transunion.com
If you suspect your identity has been stolen or fraudulent activity has occurred, you’ll also need to contact your bank to cancel credit cards or revise passwords. The FTC offers resources to help you report and recover from identity theft.
At Level One, trusted among the best banks in Michigan, the safety of your accounts is a top priority. We value your trust in us. To report suspicious activity on your accounts, call us at 1-888-880-5663. You can also talk with our team, or visit our online resource center for more information.
“Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it.” Elastigirl, The Incredibles
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