Follow These Tips to Protect Your Identity!
October 17-23, 2010, is National Protect Your Identity Week, so Lincoln Savings Bank (LSB) wanted to remind you of a few basic things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides the following suggestions to help minimize
your risk of identity theft:
Protect your Social Security number
Don't carry your Social Security card or number in your wallet/purse and only give it out when absolutely necessary. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers. Your employer and financial institutions will need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you for your Social Security number to do a credit check if you are applying for a loan, renting an apartment, or signing up for utilities. Sometimes, however, they simply want your Social Security number for general record keeping. If you don't provide your Social Security number, some businesses may not provide you with the service or benefit you want. The decision to share is yours.
Treat your trash and mail carefully
To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, always shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail. Put your outgoing mail containing personally identifying information in post office collection boxes and promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
To opt out of receiving prescreened offers of credit in the mail, call: 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). Note: You will be asked to provide your Social Security number which is needed to match you with your file.
Be on guard when using the Internet
The Internet can leave you vulnerable to online scammers, identity thieves and more.
For practical tips to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your
computer, and protect your personal information, visit http://www.onguardonline.gov/.
Select intricate passwords
Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, a series of consecutive numbers, or a single word that would appear in a dictionary. Combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters make the strongest passwords.
Verify a source before sharing information
Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact and are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, businesses, and even government agencies to get people to reveal sensitive information.
Safeguard your purse and wallet
Protect your purse and wallet at all times. Don't carry your Social Security number or card and carry only the identification and the credit / debit cards you'll need.
Store information in secure locations
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. Share personal information only with those you trust who have a legitimate need for it.
Consider whether a credit freeze is a good method of protecting your identity
Many states, including Iowa, have laws that allow consumers to "freeze" their credit - letting a consumer restrict access to his or her credit report. If you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to access your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze. This means that it's unlikely an identity thief would be able to open a new account in your name. Placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
In Iowa, there is no fee for identity theft victims to freeze their credit. All others pay $10 to place the freeze, $12 to temporarily lift, or $10 to remove the freeze altogether. A permanent freeze remains until removal is requested by the consumer. To freeze your credit, you will need to place the freeze with each of three credit reporting agencies, and paying the fee to each one.
- Who can access my credit report if I place a credit freeze?
If you place a credit freeze, you will continue to have access to your free annual credit report and you will be able to buy your credit report and credit score. Companies you do business with will still have access to your credit report - for example, your mortgage, credit card, or cell phone company - as would collection agencies working for one of those companies. You may also continue to receive prescreened credit offers.
- Can I temporarily lift my credit freeze if I need to let someone check my credit report?
If you want to apply for a loan or credit card, or otherwise need to give someone access to your credit report, you will need to temporarily lift the credit freeze. You do that by using a PIN provided by each credit reporting agency when you placed the credit freeze. You will have to pay a fee to lift the credit freeze. Most states currently give the credit reporting agencies three days to lift the credit freeze. This might keep you from getting "instant" credit, which may be something to weigh when considering a credit freeze.
- What does a credit freeze not do?
While a credit freeze may keep an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name, it's not a solution to all types of identity theft. It will not protect your existing credit cards or other accounts, or if the identity theft is already happening at the time of the freeze. It will also not protect against accounts that can be opened without a credit check.
What's a fraud alert?
A fraud alert is another tool for people who've had their ID stolen - or who suspect it may have been stolen. With a fraud alert in place, businesses may still check your credit report but potential creditors must either contact you or use what the law refers to as "reasonable policies and procedures" to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.
Identity theft insurance
Although identity theft insurance won't deter identity thieves, it can, in certain circumstances, minimize losses if an identity theft occurs. As with any product or service, be sure you understand what you're getting. Things to consider include:
- the amount of coverage the policy provides
- whether it covers any lost wages (and, if so, whether there's a cap on the wages you can claim, or a separate deductible)
- the amount of the deductible
- what might be excluded (for example, if the thief is a family member or if the thief made electronic withdrawals and transfers)
- whether the policy provides a personal counselor to help you resolve the problems of identity theft
- whether your existing homeowner's policy already contains some coverage
Be aware that one of the major "costs" of identity theft is the time you will spend to clear your name. Also be aware that many companies and law enforcement officers will only deal with you (as opposed to an insurance company representative). So, even if your policy provides you with a personal counselor, that counselor can often only guide you, as opposed to doing the work
to clear your name.
LSB Financial offers an identity theft endorsement through Allied Insurance that can be added to your homeowners, condo, or renters coverage to help you easily and affordably restore your identity if it is ever stolen. It will pay up to $25,000 with no deductible to cover expenses incurred to restore your identity, including:
- Costs of executing affidavits
- Costs of certified mail
- Lost income (maximum $250 per day, total of $5,000)
- Loan re-application fees
- Attorney fees
- Costs of long distance phone calls
Through a partnership with Worldwide Assistance, Allied also offers some of the best service available in the industry, including 24/7 assistance from experienced professionals who will:
- Assist in identifying fraudulent accounts
- Place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports
- Report your ID theft to the Federal Trade Commission
- Notify credit-reporting agencies
- Contact creditors on your behalf
- Assist in replacing driver's license, passport, social security card and any other identification documents
- Provide an emergency cash advance when needed, if theft occurs away from home
Free credit monitoring
For no additional fee, you may also sign up for Allied's credit monitoring service from TransUnion.
Don't be an identity theft victim. Be a survivor. For more information, contact your local, independent LSB Financial insurance agent.
This information is provided by Lincoln Savings Bank (LSB) / LSB Financial, an Iowa-based institution devoted to providing complete financial services since 1902. http://www.mylsb.com/