Financial tips: Avoid identity theft

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Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, Family Resource Management Field Specialist

You may not think you have much information to form your financial identity, but identity thieves can take one piece of your personal information and cause financial problems for the rest of your life. 

Your financial identity includes your social security number, bank account information and login data to streaming services or other accounts that link to your bank account. If someone steals any of your financial information, your ability to get and use credit and build a positive credit history will cost you a lot of money, time and stress.

College students can be vulnerable to identity thieves because you are surrounded by more people. It is easy for someone to dig through the trash to find the mail, statements or receipts with personal information.

Tips to avoid identity theft:

Empty your wallet. You shouldn’t be keeping important documents like social security cards in your wallet. Losing your social security card is more dangerous to your identity than losing a credit card with a $500 limit you can call your bank to cancel. Be mindful about where you keep this information. Invest in a small safe or desk with a locked drawer.

Review your debit card transactions and check your credit report. The next best thing to making sure your identity isn’t stolen is to make sure you find out right away if it is. Keeping on top of your bank records will alert you of any weird purchases you know you didn’t make. You can also get one free credit report (more in-depth than just a credit score) from each of the major three credit trackers weekly. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to check your report, even if you don’t think you have established a credit history yet. This will show you if you have any new loans or cards opened in your name.

Don’t give out information over the phone. No one should call you to ask for your social security number, banking information or anything of that sort even if they say that they are with your bank or the IRS. The exception to this is if you make the call to your bank, they may need an account number or something sensitive to verify that it is you, but often they will have security questions or other means of doing so. If at any time you don’t feel comfortable giving out that information, ask for another way to verify or hang up the phone. This also applies to text messages or emails alerting about any of your accounts.

If you do notice something, contact the bank or credit card company immediately.