We’ve all heard nightmare stories about someone who has become the victim of credit fraud; however, what have you done to protect your financial well-being? Phishing links in texts or emails, compromised passwords or pins, and stolen credit card information are all ways fraudsters can hack your accounts, so it’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to your credit. Learn steps to ensure you’re protected from identity or credit theft.
1. Contact the company where the fraud occurred and let them know someone made charges or opened an account in your name that you did not authorize.
- They may ask you to close, freeze or set an alert on your account to prevent further unauthorized activity.
2. Change Passwords/Pins to the compromised accounts.
- If reusing the same password for other accounts, change those too. Do not reuse passwords.
- Password managers such as Keeper, Key Pass, and LastPass can be installed on a phone for free and are a great help.
- Once a password is compromised during a breach, hackers try to get into other accounts in a tactic called credential stuffing.
3. Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to receive it in the mail.
- It’s free and we should all be checking our reports often. Checking your reports does not lower your credit score.
- Notify the credit bureau if any discrepancies are noted.
- Report fraudulent charges and close any accounts in your name that a fraudster may have opened.
4. Put an alert or freeze on your credit after you check it.
- If you put an alert on one, that credit bureau will notify the other two, but you have to notify all three to put a freeze on them. If you opt to put a freeze, review your credit report first.
- Experian- Consumer Assistance at Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion- Credit Score Help | Credit Report Help | TransUnion 1-888-909-8872
- Equifax- Credit Report Services | Equifax® 1-800-685-1111
5. Contact your local authorities.
- Depending on the extent of the compromise or ID theft, you may need to file a report. Track all actions.
6. Report identity theft to the FTC.gov.
- It may help someone else to know your story, so pass it on!
7. Check all accounts and credit card accounts to be sure there are no unauthorized transactions.
- Report immediately if you find any.
8. Assume email addresses may have been compromised.
- Fraudsters will try to get into your email or PC by installing malware through phishing mail that contains a link or attachment.
- All you have to do is click on the link or attachment to install the bad malware that will let the fraudster in.
9. Be on the lookout for any phishing emails or text messages.
- If you are not expecting an email or text or if it is strange in any way, don’t click on links and attachments, verify it with a phone call to the sender with the information you have on file. Delete all suspicious emails from your inbox and deleted items.
10. Keep devices and computer security up to date and set automatically to install updates and patches.
Consistent monitoring of your online accounts, credit cards, and credit score is paramount in keeping a clean credit and financial identity. Although avoiding fraud altogether can seem like an impossible task, knowing where to go and whom to contact if you do see suspicious activity on your accounts helps to avoid a complicated dilemma with potentially life-changing consequences.
About the Author
Margo Leiter, CISM
Margo Leiter is a resident DeSoto County, where she began her banking career in 1981 at Crews Bank & Trust, formerly First State Bank of Arcadia. In 2008, she took on the role of the Chief Information Security Officer for Crews Bank & Trust. She subsequently became a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), overseeing management of the company’s Information Security Program to ensure sensitive customer information is safe and secure. In her personal life she enjoys shopping, traveling with her husband, and spending quality time with her children, grandchildren and church family.