A relationship with your bank is primary in preventing breaches.
According to a Consumer Reports article (Debunking the hype over ID theft, Feb. 2012), “... identity fraud is down because financial institutions are doing a better job preventing it...in most cases...liability is limited to $50 for a lost or stolen credit card.”
The same is true for debit cards if reported within two business days of the date a cardholder learns of the loss.
Timberland Bank Manager Lisa Hull helped me recover from ID theft when another bank refused to shut down my account because I could not come in personally. Hull outlined remedies and actions to get it closed and I was able to have my assets contained later that day.
A friendly, customer-oriented bank is truly a great ally in such grizzly times as having your ID stolen. A good ounce of prevention is to ask your bank what their procedures are before the fact, because responding to ID theft is like responding to an oil fire: a quick, conscientious response can make or break your livelihood.
FTC has our backs
And, in this day of internet baking, be sure to protect your online assets. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made itself available for cyber privacy education at www.onguardonline.gov in a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and more than a dozen federal agencies.
FTC also endorses the site www.annualcreditreport.com as the only resource to provide your free 3-bureau report with no strings attached, as required by law. Avoid links from other websites–instead, type the URL above directly into your web browser, then bookmark it. (Or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228).
If you check your reports on a public or shared computer, there is an option to have the information mailed to you instead of making it available to snoops and hackers. Just print out a form downloaded from the website, but be sure the have the information delivered to a secure source such as a PO box.
When it comes to other sites, FTC cautions consumers to be wary of companies that make claims regarding credit repair, as some of these sites use the information you give them to scam you. Likewise, credit-monitoring companies often lead with a brief trial period, followed by fees from $11.99 to $18.95/month. You are entitled to only one free report from each credit bureau per year, but you are still entitled to a free report.
An omnibus online resource for prevention of and recovery from ID theft is also Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a grant-funded, nonprofit that has helped educate and equip individuals against fraud and ID theft since 1992. For their info, visit www.privacyrights.org.
This is the second of a three-part series by Marlea Hanson on the issue of preventing ID theft. Look for subsequent installments in future editions of Town Crier.