Protecting Your Financial Information
What You Should Know
The recent Equifax data breach has left many feeling concerned about identity theft and fraud. Unfortunately, in the wake of breaches like this one, consumers are increasingly vulnerable to phishing attacks, phone scams, and identity theft.
It’s important to understand the steps you can take to minimize the chances of falling victim to financial fraud or identity theft, and UW Credit Union is your partner in helping maintain the integrity of your personal financial information.
Q: What do we know about the Equifax breach?
A: Equifax recently disclosed a data breach which exposed the personal information of over 143 million US customers. Equifax estimates that the breach occurred mid-May through July 2017. During this timeframe, hackers had access to:
- Social security numbers
- Birth dates
- Driver’s license numbers
- Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 individuals. (A small number of UW Credit Union cardholders are impacted. We are contacting affected members directly.)
- Dispute documentation with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 individuals
To assess whether your information may have been impacted by the breach, visit Equifax’s website and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security Number. You can also call 866.447.7559. Whether or not your information was exposed, US Equifax customers are eligible for a year of free credit monitoring and other services – click here to learn more or to enroll.
Q: Should I freeze my credit to prevent fraud?
A: Placing a security freeze, or credit freeze, on your credit reports makes it more difficult for a thief to open a new account or apply for credit in your name. A credit freeze cannot prevent a thief from making changes to your existing accounts.
A credit freeze will also prevent lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit to you. This could be an inconvenience in the future, or even impact your ability to get a mortgage or other loans, as well as other more routine types of credit, like a cell phone account.
A credit freeze remains on your credit file until you remove it, or choose to lift it temporarily when applying for loans or other credit-dependent services. There could be costs associated with applying or lifting a credit freeze from your files with each of the three major credit reporting companies.
An alternative to a credit freeze is to set a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit, opening new accounts, or increasing credit limits on existing accounts. This will not prevent a lender from opening credit in your name the way a freeze does, but it does require lenders to take additional steps to verify your identity first.
When assessing how best to protect your credit, consider the costs, and the likelihood of upcoming purchases or loans. To apply a credit freeze or fraud alert to your credit files, contact the credit bureaus directly:
PO BOX 2002
ALLEN, TX 75013
PO BOX 2000
CHESTER, PA 19016
PO BOX 740256
ATLANTA, GA 30374
Q: How can I best protect myself from post-breach scams?
A: The first step is being aware that many scammers will use the incident as a way to trick consumers into disclosing personal information or selling you fraudulent identity theft protection services.
For example, current phishing and phone scams include emails or phone calls claiming that there is a problem with your credit card, credit record, or other personal financial information. Similarly, there are reports of calls and emails claiming to come from Equifax, asking you to verify personal information in order to assess if your data was compromised.
Outside of being aware, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk:
- Do not share your personal information over the phone or online, even if the call or email appears to be from a reputable source. If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a call or email, verify by calling a trusted phone number, like the one on your statement or the back of your credit card.
- Monitor your accounts regularly and report inconsistencies or suspicious activity to us. You can proactively protect your UW Credit Union accounts by establishing Notifications in Web Branch, and by opting in to Mobile Travel Verification for your credit and debit cards via our mobile app.
- Monitor your credit report. All UW Credit Union members have free access to review their credit score. You can activate this service by logging in to Web Branch. You’ll receive alerts any time changes are made to your credit profile. You are also entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major reporting agencies – click here to request yours.
- Protect your Social Security Number. Give it out only when absolutely necessary and avoid carrying your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.
- Develop strong passwords, and change them often. Information commonly used for passwords (birth dates, pet’s names, high school mascot, for example) can be easily discovered by thieves. The FTC recommends passwords that are a random mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Also, remember to change your passwords regularly.
- Protect your children, too! Unfortunately, children are frequent victims of identity theft – if a child’s Social Security number and other personal information is compromised, thieves could be applying for credit in the child’s name. Often, significant damage can occur before this is discovered. Request credit reports for your minor children and report any suspicious activity immediately.
Q: How can I spot the signs of identity theft?
A: While preventing identity theft and fraud can be difficult, catching it early can help minimize damage to your financial health. Knowing the common signs is critical to preventing and stopping identity theft:
- Unfamiliar activity on your credit reports. If you notice unauthorized or unfamiliar activity, contact the credit bureau that issued the report right away.
- Unexpected charges on your credit union or credit card statements. Review each charge on your statement and contact the credit union or your credit card company regarding any purchases you don’t recall making.
- Letters or phone calls from unfamiliar creditors or bill collectors. If you experience this, an identity thief has likely used your identity to open accounts and make purchases in your name.
- Inability to access online accounts. If you’re suddenly unable to access accounts as you usually do, contact your financial institutions immediately by phone, using a trusted number. A fraudster may have stolen your passwords in an attempt to take over your accounts.
Q: What should I do if I suspect I am a victim of identity theft?
A: If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft, reporting the theft and working toward a recovery plan are critical. If you notice the signs of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement agency to file a report. You should also:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Their step-by-step process helps consumers work toward a recovery plan and mitigate the impact of identity theft.
- Protect your credit report immediately by adding a fraud alert or credit freeze.
- Report the identity theft to your local law enforcement agency.
- Contact your creditors, financial institutions and others with whom you have a financial relationship to inform them that your accounts may be compromised.
- Review your credit reports and contact any companies on your credit report that you do not recognize to verify the information they have in their records.
- Keep a log of all related phone conversations, including the names of the people you spoke to.
Q: How can UW Credit Union help keep my information and identity safe?
A: All UW Credit Union members have access to a variety of tools and resources to help combat fraud and protect your information:
- Monitor your credit score and receive email alerts any time changes are made to your credit profile – including new inquiries, credit lines, or public records. To set up this free service, log in to Web Branch.
- Web Branch Notifications allow you to set transaction-based alerts to help you stay informed and aware of account transactions. Monitor events pertaining to your account via email, text or push messaging in real time. Log in to Web Branch and click the bell icon to set up Notifications and manage your preferences.
- Your UW Credit Union credit and debit cards include 24/7 fraud monitoring and Visa’s® Zero Liability Policy guarantees that you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your account or account information. You’re protected if your Visa® credit or debit card is lost, stolen or fraudulently used, online or offline. You can also opt-in to features like Mobile Travel Verification to help identify legitimate purchases on your cards.
Additionally, we employ a number of security measures aimed at keeping your personal financial information safe:
- Our Internet security safeguards meet or exceed industry standards.
- We use the latest encryption technology to prevent anyone from intercepting or viewing your personal information.
- Web Branch accounts are locked after a set number of unsuccessful login attempts to protect your private information from potential compromise.
- VerifyU offers an added layer of online security. While navigating Web Branch you may be prompted to validate your identity via a random, single-use code delivered to you via phone, text or authenticator app. This is VerifyU at work.
- Using a system identification procedure, we verify member identities for all phone interactions. This procedure allows us to confidently identify member using multifaceted questions, to ensure legitimacy before accessing accounts.