Identity theft can take a toll on your emotional and financial health. Protecting yourself starts with being proactive: Educating yourself on ways to safeguard your financial security and recognizing important warning signs. Below, we share five red flags that could signal identity theft, along with six steps to take to protect your financial information.
Warning signs of ID theft
- You spot an unfamiliar transaction on one of your statements. Make it a habit to review your financial accounts every month. If you notice unusual activity, such as a charge for a purchase you’re certain you didn’t make, that could be a thief testing your account information. Contact your financial institution immediately.
- You’re denied credit when you were expecting approval. Ask the creditor to provide details about the reason your application was turned down. Likewise, if your debit or credit card, or check is refused for a purchase, contact your bank right away.
- You receive a statement — or an actual card — for an account you didn’t open. Or, you start getting collection calls for debts that don’t belong to you. This is a strong sign that a criminal is actively using your personal information and running up debts in your name.
- You receive correspondence from the IRS stating that a return has already been filed by someone with your name and Social Security number. If you’re expecting a tax refund, the thief could snag it before you do. Download IRS Form 14039 to file an identity theft affidavit.
- You receive an email confirming a password reset that you didn’t request. This indicates a thief is attempting to get into your account. Contact your financial institution promptly.
In addition to watching for red flags, take these steps to help protect your financial information:
- Use different, hard-to-guess passwords for every financial account, as well as your computers, mobile devices, and even smartwatches. If it’s an option, use two-factor authentication for extra protection.
- Store all paper financial documents in a secure location. For electronic documents, use firewalls, anti-virus software, and other security features. Shred old financial documents you no longer need before disposing of them. Similarly, delete all personal information before getting rid of any electronic device.
- Avoid sharing financial information, unless you’re certain you know who you’re sharing it with.
- Don’t click on links or open email attachments from senders you don’t recognize.
- Regularly check your credit reports for signs of trouble. Order free copies once per year from each of the three reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Consider ordering one report from a different agency every quarter to spread your reviews throughout the year.
More advice and assistance
Keeping an eye out for trouble and acting quickly to resolve the issue is the fastest road to resolving the problem and preserving your financial security — and peace of mind.
For additional resources related to identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information Site. If you think you might be a victim, you can file a report online. Also be sure to contact the related financial institution.
At Westfield Bank, we take the security of your personal financial information seriously.