Guard Your Personal Information
Identity theft and credit card scams are fast-growing crimes. Thieves are using a variety of techniques to try to capture personal data and credit card information to be used illegally. University Credit Union suggests little things you can do everyday that will make it difficult for thieves to use information about you.
Only use your credit card at merchants that you believe to be reputable and that you contact first. Don't give your credit card numbers to merchants who first contact you for business. If you are not sure, obtain the business phone number yourself and call to verify you are speaking to the correct party.The Federal Trade Commission provides helpful tips protecting credit card numbers.
Protect Your Credit Card Numbers
Thieves who want to obtain personal information have many ways to try to get this information. They use the information in an attempt to open credit accounts in the consumer's name, leaving only the bills and the negative credit history to be sorted out by others.
One of the best ways that you can protect your personal information is to obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year to review for any errors. The Federal government mandated that the three biggest credit reporting companies each provide a free credit report (not to include a credit score) to consmers at least once a year. To do this, the reporting companies joined forces to create Annual Credit Report.com.
There are three different methods of obtaining your credit report. You can visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228, or mail a standardized form (downloaded from credit reporting agency Web sites) to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
(Note: there are for--profit Web sites operating that give credit reports for a fee. The above-mentioned site is the official site as provided by Federal law.)
Credit Report Bonus: If you have any questions about how to read your credit report or if you have any other credit report questions, contact a trained representatives at the BALANCE program. The people at BALANCE have been contracted by University Credit Union to offer free unbiased, counseling to credit union members.
Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission publishes many helpful information pieces that explain identity theft and the steps you should take to guard your personal information. Click through to the FTC sites for information:
One of the latest scams to obtain information about you is the practice of "phishing." This is where spam e-mails are sent to look like a particular business. In the "Official looking" e-mail, it asks for you to go to another Web site to "verify" personal information. The site usually asks for personal information, account numbers and credit card numbers. There is currently a fraudulent e-mail circulating that looks like it has been sent by University Credit Union asking for such information. Please contact your UCU with any questions.
Phishing e-mails typically look like they're coming from a large financial institution. But sometimes, it can come from less obvious businesses, smaller banks, credit unions, credit card companies, etc. E-mails are sent to a large number of e-mail addresses, hoping the receiver has a relationship to the particular business.
If you see an e-mail like this, do not click on the link or provide information to the site. It usually is not the business you think it is, because a legitimate business would never ask you to verify that type information. Responding to a "phishing" site can compromise your account or personal information. Only provide personal information to a merchant you trust and to whom you contact on your own. A financial institution will not contact you and ask you for your account number or other personal identification information.
Don't fall victim to phishing scams. The FTC provides more valuable information on phishing and how it works.
More Prevention Tips
- Photocopy everything, front and back, in your wallet so that if it is stolen you know the accounts to cancel and the phone numbers to call.
- Keep records of all online purchases with dates and order numbers.
- Keep all credit card receipts and compare them with your statement.
Leave home without it
- Be wary of anyone asking for personal information, especially if you did not initiate the transaction.
- Consider getting a locking mailbox, picking up mail right after it is delivered or getting a post office box.
- Take outgoing mail with checks or financial information to the post office or a secure location to mail.
- Watch carefully the people you give your credit card to.
- Don't feel pressured into divulging information. Scammers like to use scare tactics like threatening to close an account or suspend service to coerce information from you.
- When using a credit card online, navigate directly to the retailer's or charity's site. Don't follow links in e-mail to get there.
- Shred all documents with personal information before you throw them away.
Take care with checks
- Don't carry your social security card with you.
- Leave your checkbook and credit cards at home unless you plan to use them.
- Do not print your driver's license number, social security number or home phone number on your checks.
- Do not put the complete account number on the "For" line when paying a credit card bill with a check. Just put the last four numbers for reference.
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