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How Bad Habits Can Lead to Identity Theft

It's a Money Thing

It's a Money Thing

December 1, 2016

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Identity theft is one of those things that happens to other people, right?

Technically, yes. But it happens to a lot of other people, including your neighbors. Just last year, 4,946 cases were filed in Oregon, making the state third in reported cases of identity theft, behind only Florida and Washington.

So even if you’ve been lucky so far, the odds of being targeted may be higher than you think. There’s no way to know if you’re a target until it’s too late, so take any pre-emptive measures you can. Fortunately, the best defense is just a matter of shaking old bad habits and taking up new good ones.

Here are seven ways to foil identity theft before it starts:

1. Set up automated alerts.

Thieves move fast. You need to move faster. Don’t rely solely on your monthly statement to track your account activity. By setting up alerts through SELCO Online Banking, you can receive email or text notifications when your balance is running low, a check clears, or a payment is due. This way, you can catch suspicious activity the moment it happens.

2. Shred important documents …

If a document contains your Social Security Number, or any other piece of information that could identify you or be used to set up an account in your name, then it’s too sensitive to simply throw away. If you don’t have a shredder, use scissors to cut personal documents into ribbons or soak them in water until the paper turns to mush.

3. … and shred the junk, too.

Most credit card preapprovals last only as long the walk from the mailbox to the recycling bin, but you may want to take a few extra steps before tossing them. While these offers typically omit personally identifiable information (like an SSN), a thief who managed to scrounge up that information elsewhere could take out a card in your name.

Oregon reported 4,946 cases of identity theft in 2015.

4. Don’t overstuff your wallet or purse.

You don’t need all of your cards all of the time. Don’t be like George Costanza—carry only what’s essential and leave the rest at home. If you drop your wallet (or if it gets stolen), you’ll want to make sure you’re not completely out of luck while you wait for new cards.

5. Use a password manager.

Nowadays, keeping track of your passwords is a full-time job. You have a PIN number for the ATM and another to unlock your phone. You have passwords for every email address, website, and financial institution. Sometimes you need a number, sometimes you need punctuation, and sometimes there’s a character limit. You know the safest thing to do is to use a different password each time and change those passwords regularly, but how could you ever keep track?

It might seem counterintuitive to put all of your passwords in one place, but digital password managers are more convenient than trying to remember every character string and much more secure than writing them down. There are many options for password managers, but here are a few of the best.

6. Check your credit report once a year.

You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year, so why not take a look? If someone has used your name to open an account or take out a loan, reviewing your report is one of the most reliable ways to find out.

Reports can be requested through AnnualCreditReport.com, a site operated cooperatively by all three credit bureaus.

 

If you do become a victim…

Think someone might be misusing your identity? Act fast. You’ll need to:

  • Call the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft hotline (1-877-ID-THEFT).
  • File a police report.
  • Inform one of the major credit bureaus in order to protect your score.
  • Contact any business where the thief made a purchase or opened an account in your name.

A proactive defense or, at a minimum, a fast-acting defense can make a huge difference when it comes to protecting your identity. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to adopt good habits.



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