Preventing Identity Theft & Other Helpful Tips
Don't Be A Victim of Identity Theft
With new schemes and scams occurring daily, it's important to be vigilant regarding your personal information and the methods identity thieves use to steal from you. Take steps to prevent fraud on your email, bank accounts, and online accounts by:
- Keeping your browser and operating system up-to-date. New versions and updates often include important security enhancements and can be downloaded—usually for free—on the vendor's site.
- Updating your anti-virus software regularly. Anti-virus software needs frequent updates to guard against new viruses, so be sure to download updates as soon as they're available.
- Using a personal firewall. Many internet service providers (ISPs) offer this feature, which protects your home computer against unauthorized access by hackers.
Be Smart! Create a Safe Password
- Change your user ID and password periodically—every 30-60 days.
- Create a hard-to-guess password and make it unique.
- Use a mix of letters and numbers, capitalized, and lower-case letters.
- Don't use single words that can be found in any dictionary.
- Don't use your name, spouse's name, pet's name, birthday, favorite food, or any personal information that others can easily obtain.
- Don't use a password that contains part of your user ID.
Safeguard Your Personal Information
The bank will never solicit through email, phone, or text, non-public personal information such as account number, social security number, password, or driver’s license. Requests of this nature are fraudulent. If you share information or suspect someone has intercepted your credentials, you must contact the bank immediately.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your SSN on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
Since you are the most familiar with your accounts, you can regularly monitor your account activity to safeguard against fraud.
- Look for transactions you don't recognize.
- Search for bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Check out unexpected credit cards or account statements.
- Investigate calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
- Check your credit report regularly—look for activities you did not initiate such as applying for new credit.
- Many companies will deliver an alert of suspicious activity.
Watch for Spoof Emails!
Spoof (aka "phishing" or "hoax") emails appear to be from a well-known company, such as your bank, or credit card company. They are not, and can put you at risk. They generally ask you to click a link back to a spoof website and provide, update, or confirm sensitive personal information. To bait you, they may allude to an urgent or threatening condition concerning your account.
Even if you don't provide what they ask for, simply clicking the link could subject you to background installations of key logging software or viruses. To verify an email like this, call the bank or company directly. What are spoof emails after? They are after your:
- Password or PIN
- Credit card validation (CCV) code
- ATM/Debit or credit card number
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Bank account number
What To Do If You Are a Victim
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully.
- Close accounts.
- File a police report.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission:
Fight identity theft by monitoring and reviewing your credit report.
You are entitled to one free credit report each year, from all three of the major credit reporting bureaus.
Get your no-strings-attached credit report.
Other Helpful Links
Washington State Attorney General provides excellent security tips to help consumers.
Washington State Attorney General Website