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How to Safeguard Your Accounts and Protect Your Identity When You Are Involved in a Third Party Data Breach

Assess the Situation

While it can be very unnerving to receive notification that your personal information has been compromised in a security breach, please know that millions of people every year receive such notification but they do not become victims of identity theft. This isn't to say that you should take the situation lightly.

The first thing to do is gain as much information as you can about the data breach including what information was included in the compromise. If a police investigation is not underway, then you may notify the proper authority.

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Frauds Against the Elderly: Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

In September 2003 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a survey stating that over the past five years 27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, including 9.9 million people in the past year alone. An earlier FTC report indicated that 10% of identity theft victims are age 60 or older.

Identity thieves use the information to open new accounts, misuse checking or saving accounts, rent housing, obtain medical care or employment, or to obtain government records such as tax returns. Some thieves even use stolen identities when being charged with crimes.

The FTC offers these tips to protect yourself and elderly relatives:

  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know whom you're dealing with.
  • Guard your mail and trash from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office instead of in an unsecured mailbox. Remove mail from your mailbox promptly.
  • Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications or offers, insurance forms, physician statements, check and bank statements, and expired charge cards.
  • Before revealing any identifying information (for example, on an application), ask how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared with others.
  • Keep your Social Security card in a secure place and give your SSN only when absolutely necessary.
  • Limit the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you carry.
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work and at home.

Copyright 2004 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Are Relatives Using Your Identity?

The numbers are staggering. More than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the past five years, according to the Federal Trade Commission' Identity Theft Survey Report, issued Sept. 2003. Even more shocking is the number of thefts by relatives. Of 4,057 people surveyed who reported identity theft to the FTC, 9% said a family member was responsible.

Financial experts say parents who destroy their own finances increasingly are tempted to "borrow" their children's good credit. As co-signers, all they need is a birth date and Social Security number, information they either know or have easy access to. 

Other family "thieves" include children, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Unfortunately, the only options for victims of familial credit abuse are paying off the debt in large chunks or filing a complaint that could send your relative to jail.

Experts recommend you order a copy of your credit report annually from each of the "big three" credit reporting agencies: Experian, 888.397.3742; Equifax, 800.685.1111; and Trans Union, 800.888.4213. Victims should request that a red flag be placed in their file to help prevent anyone else from opening fraudulent accounts.

Obtain a free credit report.

Copyright 2004 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

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