GOSHEN — No one wants to be a victim of identity theft. While it’s virtually impossible to eliminate the risk, there are many steps you can take, however, to protect yourself. “It starts with three things,” advises Martha Packer, loss prevention and security officer at Interra Credit Union. “Carefully protect your social security number, financial information and accounts and passwords.”
First, don’t carry a social security card unless it is specifically needed that day. It’s also important not to write social security number on checks. Fortunately in Indiana, your driver’s license number is a different number. However, if an insurance company uses your Social Security Number, it’s a good idea to request a different number.
“The bad guys are always looking for ways to access financial information and accounts,” Packer pointed out. She offered these tips to help protect yourself:
• Place passwords on all financial accounts.
• Avoid using public computers to access financial accounts. If you use a public computer, always be sure to sign off and close the browser.
• If you access financial accounts or shop online, always make sure you are using a secure website.
• If you receive an e-mail or phone call that claims to be from your financial institution and contains a link to the website, don’t click on the link. Instead, navigate to the website by manually typing in the address or contact the institution directly if you have any concerns.
• If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent your financial institution who requests your personal information or account numbers, never provide it. A reputable organization will not make that request.
• Check your credit report regularly. You can obtain a free credit report once a year from each of the major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com.
• Monitor your transactions and reconcile your financial accounts regularly via online banking and regular statements.
• Keep an inventory of your credit cards and insurance cards, and other items in your wallet, including account numbers and phone numbers. Make copies and keep them in a safe place.
With increased use of online services, Interra’s security officer pointed out the importance of password structure and protection. “Make your passwords uncommon using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols,” Packer said. “And, keep your passwords secure, not in your billfold or by your computer, but rather in a secure location or using online password management programs.”
Packer also advises people to shred any paperwork containing nonpublic information–such as financial account numbers, Social Security Numbers, driver’s license information, receipts, tax forms, vehicle registration and insurance forms. With that in mind, Interra is holding its annual Shred-It Days for credit union members on Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, at the main office location in Goshen.
Members may shred up to 50 pounds free, and pay 20 cents per pound thereafter. Contact Interra at (574) 534-2506 for more information.
Interra Credit Union, headquartered in Goshen, Indiana,serves more than 65,000 members. The new Ligonier office is under construction and will open in early June at 1110 Lincolnway South.