You do a lot of things every day to protect yourself. You wear a seatbelt. You wash your hands. You lock your car and your home.
But are you doing everything you can to keep your identity safe?
When someone steals your personal information to commit fraud, it’s called identity theft. People may use your Social Security number or other personal information to illegally file for a tax refund, file for unemployment, apply for loans or credit cards, open utility or other accounts in your name, rent an apartment, or more. Identity theft damages your credit and creates a tangled web that is difficult to unravel.
Take a few steps now to protect yourself from identity theft.
Many victims say their identity theft came as a surprise; they had no idea they were at risk. Sadly, they often missed some of the most common clues, which include missing bills or financial statements, charges for items they didn’t order, calls from debt collectors for accounts they didn’t open, unfamiliar charges on their credit card, bounced checks and more.
Your best protection is to avoid the problem upfront. Here are 20 things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft.
For many people, identity theft problems begin with a lost or stolen Social Security number. If someone gets your number, they can take out loans or open credit accounts in your name.
1. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you; keep it safe at home and locked away if possible.
2. Never use any part of your Social Security number as a password.
3. Don’t email or text anything that shows your Social Security number.
4. Be selective in who you give your number to. Ask how it will be used, how it will be protected, and if another identifying number can be used instead.
5. Shred any old documents containing your Social Security number instead of recycling them.
Take a moment to create an online account with the Social Security Administration and verify the information they have on file for you. Your My Social Security account contains detailed information about the Social Security benefits you are eligible for, and the Retirement Calculator helps you plan for your retirement. When you create a secure online account, you reduce the risk of someone else opening an account in your name, even if they have your SSN. The site also offers a second layer of authentication (via email or text) to validate your account when you sign on. Take advantage of this feature; it helps protect your account from unauthorized use and potential identity theft.
Another common form of identity theft impacts your financial accounts. Here’s where we need to work together for your protection.
6. Review your monthly account statements regularly to verify both withdrawals and deposits.
7. Set up your Alaska USA online account with e-mail alerts that let you know when your account balance reaches a certain amount. This also helps you avoid overdrafts.
8. Use a strong, unique password for your online account access and change it regularly. Don’t write it down and carry it with you, and never share it with anyone.
9. Shred old statements after one year.
10. If we suspect that your credit card has become compromised, we’ll attempt to contact you to verify the charges. Make sure we know how to reach you by phone or email if this happens.
11. We will never call asking for your account number or personal identification number (PIN). If you get a call requesting this information, hang up and call us immediately.
12. Put our customer service number in your mobile phone contacts so you can dial us directly: Alaska USA Member Service Center, 907-563-4567 or 800-525-9094.
Your credit reports will also help you identify signs of trouble.
13. Check your credit report at least once a year, and immediately address any discrepancies or unauthorized accounts. You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year from all three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.
14. Consider putting a fraud alert or a freeze on your credit. An alert requires creditors to verify your identity before inquiries can be processed while a freeze prohibits new accounts from being opened without your express permission.
There are everyday things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft.
15. Secure your mail; install a mail slot directly into your home, get a locked mailbox or a secure Post Office Box.
16. Lock your mobile phone with a secure passcode, touch ID or facial recognition.
17. Use a current web browser and up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software and update regularly.
18. Use unique passwords and change them regularly; avoid using easy-to-hack phrases like your pet’s name or your house number.
19. Store personal information (your Social Security card, passport, birth certificate, etc.) in a secure place, like a safe or a safety deposit box.
20. If you receive a questionable call from someone asking to verify personal information, just hang up, and don’t return calls to unknown parties.
Contact an Alaska USA member service representative or our Fraud Resolution department at 800-525-9094, ext. 2850; we can provide you with information on how to report the incident to the police. You can also review guidelines from the Social Security Administration or contact your local Social Security office if you think you are a victim of identity theft.
There are many things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. It is time-consuming to fix things if your identity is stolen, but it can be done. Trust your instincts; if something feels too good to be true, verify it yourself. And if you suspect you are the victim of fraud, don’t be embarrassed; report it immediately. We’re here to help and are committed to keeping your Alaska USA accounts secure.
There's never been a better time to become a member. Get in touch today!
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