Identity Theft Awareness Week began this Monday and runs through Friday. TWU Information Security encourages Pioneers to use this as a reminder to take preventative measures to protect your identity and personal information.
Identity theft is a criminal act in which someone obtains your personal or financial information and uses it without your permission. Thieves could open credit cards or loans in your name, steal your tax refund, or file for unemployment or health care.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) supports Identify Theft Awareness Week and offers virtual events to provide education on how to “detect identity theft, protect against it, and recover if identity theft occurs.” Event information is available at consumer.ftc.gov.
Not sure where to start when it comes to identify theft? Ask yourself the following questions and use resources provided by the FTC:
How can I protect my identity?
- Protect and secure documents that have personal information: Physical records such as Social Security and healthcare cards, financial documents and tax returns should be kept in a locked and secured place. Always shred sensitive documents once they are no longer needed.
- Ask questions before giving out your Social Security number: The IRS, your bank, and your employer may ask for your Social Security Number (SSN) for identification purposes, but they will never send an email/text or call you to request it. Other organizations may ask for your SSN but be cautious and ask why they need it and how they will protect it. In many cases, that field on forms may be left blank.
- Protect your information from scammers online and on your phone: Long and unique passwords should be used for all accounts, especially those that contain sensitive data such as banking. Multi-factor authentication should be turned on for all accounts that offer it. Never provide personal information to someone that calls, emails or texts you.
How do I know if my identity has been stolen?
- Track your bills: If you stop getting a bill or get a new bill, that could be a sign of an address change or new services purchased in your name.
- Review your bills: Automatic bill pay has made life convenient, but don’t forget to review charges. Purchases that are unaccounted for could be a sign of identity theft.
- Check your bank account statement: Unknown debits and withdrawals should be a warning sign that your identity may have been stolen.
- Get and review your credit reports: New accounts in your name that you did not initiate (such as loans) could be a sign of identity theft. Review your credit report and only secure reports from trusted sources. More information can be found at consumer.ftc.gov.
What if identity theft happens to me?
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft to the FTC and get a personal recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov walks you through recovery steps for more than 30 types of identity theft from tax fraud to stolen personal information from a data breach.
As always, if you see a suspicious communication at TWU, report it to the Service Desk at 940-898-3971, email@example.com or techchat.twu.edu. Practicing good cybersecurity can help you prevent and detect identify theft.