According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has topped its list of consumer complaints every year, for the last 12 years. Identity theft occurs when a criminal obtains and misuses someone’s personal information without permission, typically for economic gain. For many victims, it can result in drained bank accounts, poor credit, and a damaged reputation.
In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, North Valley Bank offered the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.
- Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in Online Banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
- Use Online Banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts for certain types of transactions, such as purchases made with your debit card or transactions of more than $500.
- Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. You can spread it out to one every four months if you order one at a time from each provider.
- Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
- Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
- Report any suspected fraud to your bank.
– This post sponsored by North Valley Bank.