Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Image of man accessing confidnetial info. Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the most nefarious crimes out there. Here are seven ways to help protect yourself: 

Secure Your Hard Copies 

Every sensitive document should be kept in a safe or scanned and saved in a secure folder. Credit cards and debit cards should be securely placed in your wallet at all times. 

Bonus Tip:  Shred all aged documents that contain sensitive information.

Examine Your Financial Statements

Review your financial statements monthly and check carefully for fraudulent activity. Report any suspicious charges immediately. 

Bonus TipSign up for alerts and limit your credit card activity to a specific geographical area.  Members, when traveling, let us know when you plan to take a trip so we can open access to your card in that area.  Just call us at 404-978-0080.

Choose Strong Passwords

Use different, strong passwords for each of your accounts and devices. 

Bonus Tip:  Use a secure password service, like LastPassto create and store unique passwords.

Protect Your Computer

Invest in a strong anti-spyware program to protect your hardware from hackers. 

Bonus TipEncrypt your hard drive for an extra level of protection.  Learn more about encryption here.

Be Wary of Suspicious Emails and Websites

Don’t open suspicious-looking emails or click on links for unfamiliar sites.  If you’re unsure of the link, ‘Google’ it first.  Usually secure, legitimate websites rank higher in search results and include extra links, ratings, maps and hours for their site or business.

Bonus TipIf your inbox is flooded with promotional emails, unsubscribe from some of them. This will help you spot the truly bad apples in all that mail. 

Use (Multi) Two-Factor Identification

The extra log-in step will help ward off scammers and add another layer of security to your accounts. 

Bonus TipNever elect to have a device “remember your password” for a site that involves payments of any kind.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is a great hunting ground for thieves; steer clear if you can.  At the very least, avoid all online banking or password logins while using public Wi-Fi.

Bonus Tip:  Secure your own home Wi-Fi with a strong password.

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7 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft

 

Take fraud protection into your own hands!  When debit cards aren’t in use, especially if you don’t have any plans to use them for a few days, remotely disable them.  MembersFirst members, you can temporarily turn access to your cards on and off by simply logging into our mobile app, selecting Remote Control Cards from the menu, choosing the card(s) you want to temporarily deactivate, tapping ‘disable’–and you’re done.  When you’re ready to use them again, just log in and tap ‘active’.

As always,  if you think you’ve fallen victim to identity fraud, you should alert us and any other financial institution you work with immediately to avoid as much financial backlash as possible.

Your turn!  How many of these actions have you then to secure your personal and financial information?  Comment below.

Equifax® Data Breach: How to Protect Your Financial Identity

equifax data

By now, it’s safe to assume most of us have heard about what Equifax is referring to as a ‘cybersecurity incident’. For those of us who haven’t, here’s a quick recap:

  1. Hackers took advantage of a weak area in an Equifax application between May and July 2017.
  2. Information that may have been stolen included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates and driver’s license numbers for close to 143 million U.S. customers.
  3. You will need to take action to protect your information and credit by first visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were included in this data breach.
  4. Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring to those effected.
  5. In addition to the breach of personal information, some 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents containing personal information may also have been stolen. Equifax will alert those affected via U.S. mail.

Also, while it’s true we have the word ‘credit’ built into our name, it’s important to understand your credit union was not breached and your account information with the credit union remains safe.

What this breach could mean to you.

Thieves could use the stolen information to pretend to be you and open accounts like credit cards, auto and personal loans in your name. This could be harmful to your chances of being approved for loans and accounts you are actually applying for in the future. Landlords, utility companies, cellular service providers, employers and others also use your history when deciding to hire, grant you credit, lease a home to you, provide you with internet and other services necessary for daily life. If someone else has taken your good credit on a joy ride, it’s likely they won’t plan to also make the corresponding payments, thus, leaving you with raised debt ratios and poor pay history. All this adds up to lowered credit scores and one big mess to clean up once you’ve discovered they’ve taken advantage of your hard work.

So how, then, do you protect yourself?

The good thing to know is you do have options which could prevent the above scary situation. Some experts suggest a complete ‘freeze’ of your credit file while others suggest a ‘lock’. The two seem the same; however, there’s a difference in how to go about adding and removing the freeze or lock.

According to TransUnion, a major credit reporting agency, locking your credit file puts you in control of preventing lenders and others from accessing your credit. When you lock your credit yourself, there’s zero waiting period, need for a PIN number and no fee is charged. TransUnion suggests enrolling in their credit monitoring program, TrueIdentity, which gives you the ability to lock and unlock your credit anytime while providing free monitoring alerts for critical credit information changes.

Freezing your credit, however, means you’re turning over control to credit reporting agencies to remove and control access to your credit file. You initiate the request to freeze and unfreeze, reporting agencies do the rest. A few things to keep in mind with a credit freeze:

  • There are fees associated with freezing and unfreezing your credit and you must initiate the request with each of the major credit agencies separately. These fees can range from $3 – $10, depending on your state, per request.
  • You may not be able to immediately freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Keep this in mind if, for instance, you’re out and about car shopping and decide to have your credit pulled for loan approval. In some cases, it can take up to 48 hours and may require a fee to unfreeze. Patience is a virtue, but in a world where instant gratification often reigns, it can feel like an eternity.
  • A PIN is required and must be provided when applying for new credit. If you forget your PIN, you’ll have to take in-depth steps with one or more of the credit bureaus to verify your identity and reset your PIN. As this breach is related to personal identifying information, identification processes may be strenuous. If you choose this option, be sure to choose a PIN you will remember.

Clark Howard made it even easier for all by providing links to freeze or lock your credit with each of the 3 main credit bureaus (thanks, Clark!)  You can visit the page by clicking here.

As credit card info for 209,000 cardholders across the U.S. and possibly another 182,000, we encourage you to take advantage of Remote Control Card services by logging into mobile banking using our FlexTeller app and turning your debit cards ‘on’, or active, and off, or ‘disabled’ as you need to use them.  If you have questions about this service, let us know!

Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ protection?

In this case, it’s not possible to be overzealous in protecting your financial identity, especially since it’s important to remember you may not immediately see false accounts or trade lines on your credit report. Identity thieves are patient…this breach happened in May – July 2017 and it’s possible, if your information is misused at all, it may not be evident for a long time. If you do not choose (and even if you do) to block or freeze your credit, you should be diligent in monitoring your financial accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity. You can do this by requesting your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, at no charge, once per year. To request a copy from one or each of these agencies, visit annualcreditreport.com. Some may choose to enroll in other credit monitoring services like Credit Karma. If so, understand these services are not the ‘be all, end all’; combine the info you see with these services to what you see on the credit reports you request.

Still, despite all you can do to help yourself, we’re here for you as well…working to calm the concerns you’ve expressed to us when calling, emailing and stopping by one of our offices. You should know we take this breach very seriously and have taken steps to ensure your member advisors are working to protect you and your information. Just as we’ve always done, we’ll continue to ask you to verify your account and contact information by asking several questions when you call. This will continue to be consistent across the board and we ask that you be patient while we complete this process as it’s truly in your best interest. A few extra seconds spent verifying your identity could prove to save you hours of frustration in the long-run should identity thieves attack the security of your information.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 404-978-0080.

Brainy Browsing and Purchasing Tactics

user entering credit card on tablet

It seems every time you turn around there’s another item you need—and you needed it, like, yesterday.  A replacement water filter for the fridge, new carpet, an extra garage door opener…

So, what do you do?  If you can’t visit your favorite retail shop, you’ll probably go to your second best option — online shopping.

Whether on your mobile device or a computer, you may have a few of your favorite online shops bookmarked.  Online retail giants like Amazon.com, eBay.com and Zappos.com continually update their safe-purchase policies, but have you checked the security settings of other websites lately?  Are you sure your purchases and personal info is still protected?

There’s plenty you can do to protect your info whether you’re online or out and about.

Spam filters are there for a reason.  Don’t disable (or forget to activate) the spam filter settings on your browser and in email programs.  Though you may not receive notifications each time a suspicious email or a website pop-up is blocked, rest assured the spam filter is doing its job.  If you’re worried it may redirect a legitimate email to the wrong location, just check your spam or ‘junk’ email folder every so often.

Don’t ignore update notifications.  Keep firewall and anti-virus programs up-to-date.  As new malware seems to pop up daily, your computer and mobile device support systems work constantly to keep your content protected by creating new protection policies and pushing them through to you via updates.

Be a skeptic.  If an email or link on a website seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Fraudsters work hard to reach you in various ways.  Don’t assume the email you just received from Aunt Rhonda bragging about the gigantic sum of money she won is legit.  Her email could have been hacked.  Look for phrases that don’t quite make sense, hover over links in emails to see where they point and be leery of shortened URLs that don’t give you clues as to where the link is taking you.

Keep your cards in sight.  Card readers, also known as skimmers, can be present anywhere.  Skimmers retain information when someone runs your card through a smaller machine under a counter or concealed in clothing.  These card readers can even fit over the top of a legitimate card reader at an ATM.  The stolen information can be copied onto another card for use by someone else.  Keeping an eye on your cards at all times and being on the lookout for fake readers can reduce the risk of your information being stolen.

Trust your instincts.  When in doubt, make a purchase from another location or website.  Doing so can save you a lot of time and financial hassle later on.

If you think your personal information has been used by someone other than you or if your cards have been compromised, be sure to alert your financial institution immediately.  The sooner you take back control of your finances, the easier it will be to clean up the mess another may have created for you when unjustly using your information.

If your credit and debit card company don’t come equipped with services like fraud prevention and account monitoring, consider switching to a financial institution like MembersFirst–we take every threat very seriously and will work with you to identify where the information leaks might be.  Don’t put a bandage on the issue; get to the root of the issue by protecting your info as much as you can.

Keeping Identity Thieves at Bay

keeping thieves at bay

When more than just you is concerned with your money.

Remember our post about safe mobile browsing and shopping?  We hope you had a moment to read it and consider the dangers of using a mobile device without following safe web-browsing practices.

But, what about when you’re not coffee shop bound, sipping a latte and checking out the latest technology steals and deals?  Maybe you’re sitting at work or with friends catching the latest Hunger Games installment.  Your cell is likely tucked away in your pocket or purse.  Think your money and personal info are safe?  You may want to think again.  There could be others digging for your personal information and you may not even realize it.

Identity Theft — You’ve heard the term, but do you really know just how easy it could be for someone to steal your identity? Mistakes like using the same password for multiple logins, not shielding your credit card numbers and pins from Nosy Ninas and oversharing on social media are just a few ways you’re putting yourself at risk for financial woes.

In this second installment of Fun Financial Ed, Jen learns just what she’s doing right (and wrong) to protect her identity.  Check it out.

Can’t access the video?  No problem.  Check out the info below.

Looking to make the switch to a Credit Union that understands the unique needs of its members?  Join today and discover what over 24,000 others already have!  We’ll make the process simple and convenient.

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Make the switch to simplify your life and your finances today!

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5 Identity Theft Jackpots (and How You Can Safeguard Against Them)

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost its victims billions of dollars (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle involved in recovering a stolen identity.

The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to deter identity thieves. The bad news is that many of us do little beyond choosing a decent password—and some people don’t even bother doing that! Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

  1. Your Trash Can

Even if you’re really careful about the information you put online, your trash bags and recycling bin can still be an easy target for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

Get a shredder (a basic model will run you $20 to $30 at a big-box store) and use it!

Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out, especially things like bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cellphone bills, paycheck stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.

Don’t forget to check your envelopes! Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

  1. Your Phone

Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list. With smartphone theft on the rise, protect yourself:

Have a password-protected lock on your home screen. This is a standard feature on all smartphones for a reason, so take advantage of it! Bonus points if your smartphone also has location tracking (also known as the “find my phone” feature).

Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or during your layover at the airport.

Do not store sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

  1. The PIN Pad

It seems like every few months a new point-of-purchase scheme emerges—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking… the list goes on! Here are some good practices for when you’re out and about:

When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.

Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN number, even if there’s no one immediately behind you—a camera can always be watching.

Choose a good PIN. Avoid PINs derived from your personal information, like your telephone number, address or birthday. Avoid an easy-to-guess PIN, like the dreaded “1234.”

Change up your PIN, especially if you use the same combination for your debit card and for unlocking your cellphone.

  1. Your Mailbox

Like the trash-picker approach mentioned above, mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information. Here’s what you can do:

Familiarize yourself with your billing cycles. A late credit card statement or a bill that never shows up could be a sign of mail tampering.

Identity thieves will sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office to make sure this isn’t the case.

Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

  1. Your Computer

You would think that this one would be common knowledge by now, but every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers:

Keep your firewall, anti-virus and operating system software up-to-date. No matter how new and fast your laptop is, it still needs protection.

Enable spam filters on your email accounts.

Look out for sketchy links and emails. Ignore any suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers or anything that asks for your personal information via email.

Don’t overshare on social media. Do your Facebook friends really need to know what year you were born? Can people tell when no one is home based on your Instagram feed? Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.

No App for Smart Mobile Use

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A recent report states close to 75% of the world’s population owns or has access to a smart device.

That’s 5.3 billion people who are potential targets of mobile fraud.  That’s a lot of private information to keep safe.
With a new way for fraudsters to scam you out of your hard earned cash every day, it’s no surprise smart mobile use is such a popular topic these days.

Think about it this way.  You’re sitting in a restaurant connected to their Free Wi-Fi, slurping tomato bisque and checking email when you see your favorite Bath and Body product is on sale (3 FOR $10? What a deal!)

You follow links to the website and make your selections then proceed to your cart to check out.  You input your personal info, including your email, password, first and last name, mailing address and full credit card information and click ‘Complete My Purchase’.  You’ve saved yourself a little money on your lunch break so you decide to reward yourself with a larger-than-life chocolate chip cookie.  You hop up to find your server—it’ll only take a moment, right?  Life is grand.

You’ve made a few dire mistakes which could cost you a lot of time and money in the long run.

While your sweet tooth had you hunting down a little gratification, you’ve left your personal belongings at the table and your mobile device unlocked, making it all too easy for someone so swipe.  Even if they weren’t interested in your personal information, mobile phones can be pretty costly to replace.

The funny thing is—or not-so-funny, in this case—you’re not the only one that knows you’ve just purchased 3 bottles of Energizing Ginger body spray.  While you’ve been happily shopping away, Mrs. Scam E. Fraudartist has hijacked your internet session and now knows a lot more about you than you really intended to share.  Additionally, she could use this information to log in as you using unfortunately easy-to-find scamming tools and begin her new life—your life.

Even if you do have the most complex of passwords, there’s plenty more you can do to protect your information.  Here are 3 easy tips to follow to protect your info:

  1. When connecting to a mobile hotspot, be sure you’re only sending information to websites that are full encrypted. There are two ways to tell if the site is secure.
    – The site address begins with “https://” or,
    – You see a closed padlock somewhere on the web browser page (usually in the address bar or at the bottom in the status bar. When clicking the padlock, you should see the name of the company and a message that reads “The connection to the server is encrypted.” membersfirst website securesecure lock example
  2. Never leave your computer, mobile phone or smart device unattended in a public place, especially while unlocked. The number one most common mistake made by a mobile user is bypassing the option to have a passcode/password on your device.  Set one up as soon as you can, make it complex and DON’T share it.
  3. After logging into sites like Facebook, FlexTeller and other sites you may have personal information stored, be sure to log out then close your browser session.

For every new way of protecting your information, it won’t be long before scammers will develop a device or system to hacking those as well.  The best thing you can do is be smart with your devices and follow your instincts—if something doesn’t feel right, don’t proceed.  Log out and close the browser session.  The worst you could lose is a little time logging in later using a more secure site.