Have you ever worried about your Social Security number, bank account or personal information being at risk for identity theft and fraud? According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, there were roughly 3 million identity theft and fraud reports received in 2018 – a 19.8 percent rise from the previous year. The effects of fraud and identity theft can be far-reaching, and it can take years to undo the damage criminals can do to your accounts and information.
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Here’s the good news: There are a number of outstanding ways you can protect yourself and resources you can explore to learn more about keeping your sensitive information and your money safe.
First and foremost, trust your gut. When it comes to your finances, identity and sensitive information having to do with your Social Security number, bank account information, PIN or investments, trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true in a telemarketing call, text or email, it probably is. You can report any fraudulent telemarketing calls to the Federal Trade Commission. Share any questionable emails, texts or phone calls claiming to be from your banking institution or advisor with them so they can investigate (and better protect you).
You can’t be too careful. Memorizing your PIN instead of writing it down; shredding every piece of paper with your address, name and other information on it; and keeping a close eye on your accounts may feel like a lot to do, but it’s the best way to protect yourself from those who are actively trying to access your information. Don’t forget to download your banking and credit card company’s official apps (and customize your alerts) to be notified of charges incurred when your card’s not present, changes in your account information and more. By being clued in to your accounts, you’re aware if something goes wrong, and you can seek the help of your banking institution or credit card company to make things right.
Certain information is off limits. You’ve probably received a telemarketing call or spam email from someone claiming to be someone else or extending an unbelievable offer if you will only share your bank account for your prize delivery, your credit card for rewards or your Social Security number to verify details. This probably isn’t a surprise, but you shouldn’t share that information without being sure it’s a company you trust.
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. The professionals you interact with at your bank, credit card company and your financial advisor’s office should focus on your safety, security and advancing your financial goals when they serve you. If that isn’t happening—or even if you’ve had an interaction you don’t feel great about—don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion from a trusted professional.
Know your resources, and keep them handy! There are a number of resources available to you in the event your identity is stolen or your finances are compromised, such as the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Consumer Information, the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Recovery page and the Identity Theft protection and information page on USA.gov.
You can also look into what resources your bank offers towards protection. Some banks offer basic credit monitoring services, but you can also take advantage of specialized banking programs or account options. Landmark Bank, for example, offers SMART checking accounts that include security features to help monitor your personal information, help restore your identity if it’s ever stolen, and reimburse you up to $10,000 to cover expenses suffered during the recovery of your stolen identity, such as lost wages, legal fees, certified mail expense and long distance charges.
The bottom line: Your information is highly coveted both online and over the phone, so take these steps (and others at landmarkbank.com/blogs) to protect yourself.