Protect Yourself from Fraud

It’s important for everyone to take steps to protect themselves from fraud, which includes guarding your Social Security number and other personal information that could help an identity (ID) thief steal your money and your identity. And now is a good time to give yourself a fraud-protection checkup, especially as data breaches have been occurring throughout the world in various industries. The following are best practices to protect your data.

Keep up with news reports of data breaches, so you’ll be prepared to take extra steps to protect your identity if you are affected. Some data breaches expose names, email addresses, and phone numbers, which usually aren’t enough for ID thieves to steal your identity. But theft of such data puts you at risk for phishing scams, in which ID thieves try to gain additional personally identifying information via email or phone by posing as a government or financial institution. Never respond or reply to these tactics — and do not give out your account numbers or Social Security number to anyone who calls or emails you. Always check their identity and call the institution to verify.

Be very careful with your Social Security number. If an ID thief gets access to your Social Security number, the threat of identity theft rises considerably. See if any company you do business with provides access to any free credit-monitoring services to help you check your credit reports for suspicious activity. Find out how long this service will last, and check if you’ll have to start paying for it if you don’t drop it after a year or two. You should also review your credit reports yourself, which you can do free every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Consider a credit freeze. This move prevents new lenders from reviewing your credit report, making it more difficult for ID thieves to open new credit in your name. A 2018 law prohibits credit bureaus from charging a fee to place or lift a freeze, which you will need to do if you apply for a loan. Initiate a freeze by contacting each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), and get more information about protecting yourself from ID theft by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s ID theft resources at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

Learn more about some best practices and tips from ICMA-RC to help prevent fraud and help protect your account.

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