Tips to Prevent Identity Theft: An Affinity Q&A

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft: An Affinity Q&A

by Jim Wilcox, AVP-Risk Administration at Affinity Federal Credit Union

As we increasingly rely on digital platforms and transactions, the opportunities for hackers to steal your information also increase – especially when it comes to your financial information. This is disturbingly evident in statistics on data breaches. According to TechRepublic, even though the overall number of breaches decline in 2020 over the previous year, “the volume of records that were compromised by these breaches jumped by 141% to a whopping 37 billion, the largest number seen by RSB since 2005.”1 At Affinity, we do our best to inform our members of the best tips to prevent identity theft, ensuring your personal information – and money – is always secure.

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In that spirit, we recently sat down with Jim Wilcox, Affinity’s AVP of Risk Administration, to discuss issues related to data breaches, identity theft and safe banking.

In recent years, there have been several major data breaches, scandals in banks and institutions and the volume of phone and email scammers seems to be ever-increasing. What can lead to someone being hacked?

The primary reason stems from the fact that today we are more “connected” than ever before. We access data and applications at home, at work and on the move. Where a few years ago we had usernames and passwords for work, home e-mail, home Wi-Fi router, etc., today, with the explosion of home security devices (video doorbells that can be accessed remotely, for example) the number of usernames and passwords we use has exploded. Ask anyone: it’s hard to remember so many logins, so people tend to gravitate toward using the same password everywhere. Worse yet, the passwords are typically a birthdate or some similar information that can be easily associated with the individual. Many of the applications we now access remotely are not protected, and if your online banking password is the same to access your doorbell video, you would be surprised at how vulnerable you’ve now become.

If people find or think they are a victim of fraud or their personal information has been hacked, what steps should they take?

First, place a credit freeze on your credit with any of the big three credit reporting bureaus. Once you freeze one, your credit is frozen across the others. Freezing your credit simply prevents anyone from acquiring credit with your personal information. This has no effect on your credit cards and spending limits; you are free to use your cards whether your credit is frozen or not. People who do this feel much safer and are in the best position to avoid concerns about their information being compromised.

Second, if your credit card was found to have been compromised, contact your financial institution and ask them to issue a replacement card, remembering to file disputes if fraudulent transactions occurred. Typically, you are not liable for fraudulent credit/debit card transactions.

If I've been involved in a data breach - what should I look out for?

Look out for someone trying to use your PII to open accounts and apply for credit. If you lock down your credit and only unlock it when you are personally applying for additional credit, then you really have little to worry about. If you do not lock your credit, then you will probably want to purchase a credit monitoring service, but why pay for an unnecessary expense?

What can I do to prevent being hacked?

Leaving computers connected to the internet without a firewall can permit a port scanner to access your PC without your knowledge or consent. An open port can be used to input malware/spyware which can then be used to steal information or use your computer for whatever nefarious purpose the hacker intends. If you don’t use a firewall that blocks traffic when you are not on your PC, keep your PC that is connected to the internet turned off when you are not using it.

Never give anyone your online banking credentials or any information that would enable them to gain control over an account, whether it be your bank account, Facebook account, LinkedIn, etc.

Finally, using strong passwords and avoiding redundancy by using the same password for multiple applications puts you in a better place to avoid being a victim of hacking.

Are there ways my financial institution can help keep me safe from fraud?

The short answer is “yes,” and most banks and credit unions deploy a wide variety of anti-fraud measures, because they are often liable for fraudulent transactions against your cards and/or account. When selecting a credit card, make sure you have zero liability, as this will reduce the likelihood that you will incur any expenses resulting from card fraud. Do keep in mind that you should be reviewing your statements and reporting any transactions that you did not perform, particularly within 60 days. When choosing a financial institution, make sure they require multifactor authentication in terms of accessing online bank accounts. If they don’t provide this added layer of protection, I’d recommend avoiding those institutions if you intend to access accounts via the Internet.

For more information on protecting your personal information and ensuring safe banking, read Affinity’s Security Tips.

                                                   

This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition are made.  

1 Retrieved from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/