4 Ways to Defend Against Identity Theft
Simple Tips to Help Prevent the Fraudulent Use of Your Personal Information
Although methods of identity theft have grown increasingly sophisticated, there are still straightforward ways to help safeguard your identity and better protect yourself from fraud.
“You don’t necessarily have to be a tech-savvy person to defend yourself from identity theft,” says David Stirling, Chief Information Security Officer for Zions Bancorporation, N.A. “The key is to establish everyday habits that enhance the security of your consumer identity.”
Consider these four simple suggestions to help prevent identity theft.
Identity Theft Tip #1: Actively Monitor Your Account Activity
To help guard your identity, begin by actively monitoring your banking and other financial accounts. You should watch for any unusual transactions that may indicate unauthorized use.
“Consumers should aim to do more than just read their monthly credit card or bank account statements,” Stirling says. “Log in to your online accounts periodically and review all of your activity.”
In addition to making regular online monitoring part of your weekly routine, you should also carefully inspect your physical mail. Watch for letters notifying you of account updates or changes, such as an address change, or loan approvals or denials you do not recognize. You can also look out for stolen mail by signing up for Informed Delivery through the U.S. Postal Service, which sends you an email preview of your daily mail.
Identity Theft Tip #2: Check Your Credit Report Regularly
Routine monitoring of your credit report is critical in helping to prevent and respond to identity theft. You can order your annual credit report for free once a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax®, Experian™ and TransUnion® — at annualcreditreport.com.
“Review your report for accounts that you may not have opened or authorized,” Stirling suggests. “Instead of checking all three reports at once, consider spacing them out so that you can review your report a few times throughout the year.”
Identity Theft Tip #3: Avoid Accessing Sensitive Sites on Public Networks
Another way that criminals commit identity theft is by eavesdropping on users of public internet connections. “You should avoid logging into sensitive websites, such as your Zions Bank online banking account, on public Wi-Fi networks,” Stirling says. “Criminals can gain access to and compromise the security of a public internet router at places like coffee shops and hotels.”
If you need to access sensitive sites while traveling or using public Wi-Fi, Stirling suggests you use a VPN, or virtual private network. A VPN is a program that encrypts your connection while on a public network, shielding your browsing activity from cybercriminals and helping to guard your private information.
Depending on the provider, many VPN services are free or low-cost and work on both laptops and smartphones. Stirling encourages consumers to do their homework and select a VPN that is well-known and has positive ratings from reputable publications or app stores. Lesser-known VPN providers may not properly guard your privacy and could expose you to unwanted advertisements.
Identity Theft Tip #4: Place a Freeze on Your Credit
“Another option for consumers who wish to avoid unauthorized use of their credit is a credit freeze,” Stirling explains. “Freezing your credit is free and doing so helps prevent fraudsters from opening a credit account in your name.” Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each allow you to freeze and unfreeze your credit when needed. For instance, you can unfreeze your credit for a day of car shopping and freeze it again once you’ve purchased your new vehicle.
Visit the official identity theft website of the U.S. government for additional information and helpful resources, including how to respond if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft.
Helping to protect client data is one of Zions Bank’s top priorities. Visit the Zions Bank Online Security Center to register for mobile card fraud alert service, opt in to Bill Pay or eDocuments, or to learn more about how to help guard your computer against computer viruses and spyware.
Ali Hardy is a freelance writer for Zions Bank.