12 Tips to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Man typing on laptop with fraud protection logo overlay

You don’t have to be in the banking industry to know about the increasing rate of fraud and identity theft in North America. Identity theft and fraud can touch anyone. According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2021, in 2021, the FTC received nearly 2.8 million reports of fraud (all types) and over 1.4 million reports of identity theft resulting in $5.8 billion dollars in losses. These numbers may be much, much more because they only consider reports made to the FTC, for instance, the Javelin 2021 Identity Fraud Study reported $43 billion dollars lost to identity fraud scams in 2020.

Government documents or benefits fraud topped the list of the FTC’s 2021 identity theft reports, credit card fraud came in a close second and bank fraud came in fifth. No matter how you look at it, identity theft is identity theft…someone has stolen your personally identifiable information (also known as PII), usually for financial gain.

The effects of identity theft are difficult to repair because they include damaged credit and loss of money not to mention, the time and resources required to address the crime. Estimates on the length of time it takes to fully recover vary based on the severity of the case but considering that you should continue to monitor your credit reports monthly at first and then annually, it could be years.

There’s no surefire way to prevent identity theft; even the most diligent person could become a victim of a data breach or a lost credit card. There are credit monitoring and identity protection services and agencies, which can help, but it also helps to be educated on how to protect your information and what to do if your identity is stolen.

How to Protect Your Information

Every day a purse is stolen, cyberattacks result in data breaches and phone calls from unknown callers are received; you could easily become a victim. Understanding the basics could help protect not only your information but also yourself and your loved ones.

  1. Never provide your personal information over the phone or to individuals you do not know.
  2. Do not share your social security number or any account or personal information over the phone unless you have made the call.
  3. If you receive emails, phone calls, texts or social media requests for payments or your personal information, do not provide it. Contact the company/agency directly using a verified phone number to verify any requests (this includes notifications of fraud activity on your accounts).
  4. The IRS will never call you to demand payments.
  5. Never pay fees or cryptocurrency to claim a prize.
  6. Reputable agencies and companies will not provide you with YOUR personal information to convince you they are legitimate.
  7. Do not download attachments or follow links from emails, texts or websites that you are not personally familiar with or that are unsolicited.
  8. Protect all documents that contain any personal information and shred sensitive documents before disposing of them.
  9. Do not reuse passwords. DO create strong passwords and use multifactor authentication.
  10. Monitor ALL accounts regularly for transactions you did not authorize.
  11. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date on all your accounts.
  12. Review your credit reports regularly. Federal law gives you the right to receive a free credit report each year. The only authorized agency to fill free credit report orders is annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1‑877‑322‑8228. You can find more credit report information on the FTC’s website here.

What To Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

  • Contact your financial institution or credit card company and close and place fraud alerts on your accounts.
  • File a report with the FTC at gov.
  • File a report with local law enforcement.
  • File a report with FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) if the crime is associated with any online activity.
  • Get a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and commit to monitoring it regularly.
  • Freeze your credit reports.
  • Change all passwords and activate multifactor authentication (if available).

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) establishes risk management principles and guidance for banks. American National Bank is committed to helping protect our clients and community by utilizing sound practices of identifying and controlling fraud. Through the establishment of preventative controls such as employee education, risk management monitoring, and the implementation of security programs, we take our clients’ safety seriously. Make an effort to do the same for yourself. Educate yourself on risks, be aware and be diligent about protecting your sensitive information. If you ever do become a victim of identity theft, knowing and practicing these things may make a difference in the outcome.

Articles contained in our news section are not intended to provide recommendations or specific advice. Consult with a professional when making financial decisions. Once published, articles are not updated; information may be outdated.