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Identity Theft

Know how to keep your sensitive information safe.

Our lives and business transactions have been digitized in so many ways that identity theft is a significant problem everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid the threat of ID theft, but there are multiple strategies to ensure you’re doing the most you can to protect yourself.

  • What is a credit report?

    A credit report is a document detailing your credit history. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes this document as a one containing information on your residence, bill payment and “whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy.”


    How do I receive my credit report(s)?

    There are three consumer reporting agencies in the United States in which you can get your free credit report from annually under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is vital obtain a copy of each annually to ensure that all account information is accurate.

    The only website authorized to give this free report yearly is When visiting the site to get a copy of your report, make sure to check your spelling to ensure you are on the correct site. To learn about “imposter” websites offering free credit reports, visit the FTC here.

    When you visit this site, you can choose to either get all three reports at the same time, or you can instead decide to space out annual free report for each of these reporting agencies and visit the site every four months for a free report. If you chose the latter, make sure to keep note of which agency you obtained a report from as you will not get another free report from this agency for another 12 months.


    What do I do if my credit report is inaccurate?

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that “under the FCRA, both the credit reporting company and the information provider are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.”

    If you find an error on your report, follow the steps indicated by the FTC including contact both credit reporting agency and the information provider. Detailed instructions can be found on the FTC’s site here.

  • At the ATM…

    Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM. Make sure that others are not looking when you type your pin. If it is a busy area, cover the keypad as you type.

    Be cautious if an ATM you visit regularly has changed in appearance (e.g. there is not a flashing light near the card entrance where there once was or the card reader area is visibly larger). Signs of difference may indicate that a card skimmer, a device that can steal your card information via the magnetic strip, may be attached. PC Magazine notes that “the typical ATM skimmer is a device smaller than a deck of cards that fits over the existing card reader.” They note that “wiggling your card as you enter it [in the ATM will not] interfere with your transaction, but will foil the skimmer.”


    Using your card in public

    At a restaurant, turn your card face down when paying the bill and take all receipts when leaving to prevent people from accessing private information.


    Your Debit Card PIN

    • Don’t use a PIN that’s easily guessed based on wallet contents (e.g., zip code or birth date) and don’t use the same PIN for all cards.
    • Keep you PIN in a safe location, and never carry it in your wallet.
  • Your Financial “Report Card”

    Request your credit report annually.

    Opt out of credit report pre-screens for five (5) years by calling 1 (888) 567-8688 or visit to opt out permanently. (For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency.)
    Remember, the only website authorized to give this free report yearly is


    Protect Your Wallet

    Limit the number of credit cards you own.
    Sign the backs of all credit and debit cards with permanent ink.
    Photocopy wallet contents and store in a safe place in case your wallet is stolen/lost.
    Do not carry your Social Security card with you.


    Secure Your Mail

    Treat your outgoing mail carefully by placing it in a secured box (like a post office collection box).
    Request a vacation hold on mail if you’re away from home.


    Safeguard Your Recycling

    Mark out your card number on the receipts when paying with a credit card.
    Shred everything that contains personal information after it is no longer needed.


    Take Steps Elsewhere

    Do not provide personal information on the phone, through mail or online unless you initiate the contact.
    Secure personal information in your home to avoid theft (e.g. a locked, fireproof container).
    Be cautious when responding to promotions. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    Ask about information security procedures at places that collect your personal information (work, doctor, etc.).
    Secure your computer and electronic devices.

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