Written by: Pier Alsup, American Eagle Credit Union, Chief Community Engagement Officer
School’s out and summer is here! This means relaxing at the pool, festivals and traveling to far away destinations for vacations. And while we are basking in summer vacation luxuries, it is not the time to “relax” or take a vacation from protecting yourself from identity theft.
Here are a few steps to protect your identity:
One surefire way to stay on top of your credit, while making sure that it hasn’t been compromised is by checking your credit report. You can get one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at FreeCreditReport.com. If something looks fishy or out of line, make sure to report it immediately.
Many of us pay our bills online, but most companies still send paper bills via snail mail. Identify thieves can steal your mail in search of these bills, which sometime contain crucial information attached to your credit and your name. Stay on top of the bills you receive in the mail, and if you don’t receive a particular bill, call the billable company. Someone could have snagged this bill in order to get more of your information.
Having strong passwords is key to shopping and doing business online. Using the same password across all of your online accounts is a recipe for disaster, and invites potential internet thieves to prey on your vulnerability. Select strong passwords that include numbers, letters, and symbols to create a strong line of defense. There also websites that can help you create robust passwords for all of your online accounts.
ATM, Credit & Debit Cards
Store all of your ATM, credit, and debit cards safely and use them wisely. Also, make a master list of all your plastic card account numbers including the phone numbers of the issuing institution. Store this list (digitally or physically) in a secure place.
It’s wise to use restraint in accepting credit card offers, but it’s even wiser to dispose of the offers carefully by shredding them. Shredding credit offers will prevent would be thieves from opening the credit in your new, but using it for their advantage.
Cell Phone and Mobile Devices
Your wireless phone or tablet are another means by which identity thieves can prey upon you, especially if you are logging in to check your financial accounts. When using your mobile devices to check your account status or pay bills, be certain to log out every time and do not allow the browser or app to store your log on information.
Your Home Computer
Make certain your home computer (and your identity!) is protected by using a firewall, regularly updating anti-virus/anti-spyware/anti-phishing software, and using strong passwords.
Protect your wallet at all times and do not carry your social security card in it, as it can be just what a identity thief needs to begin opening accounts in your name.
Identity theft happens, and it is up to you, the consumer, to protect yourself as much as you can.
The Credit Union offers a variety of helpful tools and resources on its web site to help you manage your money as well as protect your identity.
In the St. Louis area, AECU also offers FREE SHRED DAYS throughout the year. The next Shred Day is Saturday, June 22nd from 1:30pm to 4:30pm at four of our branch locations – O’Fallon, MO, Des Peres, St. Louis Hills, and South County at Tesson Ferry & Butler Hill
Visit the EVENTS section of the web site for complete details: ameaglecu.org