How to protect your identity
Financial fraudsters are more active than ever. But there are steps you can take to protect your identity and information.Financial fraudsters are more active than ever. But there are steps you can take to protect your identity and information.
Nearly 13 million U.S. consumers were victimized by identity thieves at a cost of $16 billion in 2014. While those numbers actually represent a slight improvement over the previous year,1 identity theft remains rampant and widespread. Hackers, phishers, snoops and other fraudsters are working overtime to devise new scams and ploys — but you don’t have to be a victim.
How identity theft can impact your life
In most cases, identity theft is more of a headache than a major financial loss. While falsified charges of $10,000 and more aren’t unheard of, most losses are much smaller. But that isn’t to downplay the endless hours victims must often spend repairing their credit standing and reestablishing their financial relationships. A study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that nearly two-thirds of self-reported financial fraud victims experience at least one serious non-financial repercussion, such as severe stress, anxiety, sleep disorders and depression.2
Could you be liable for fraudulent charges?
It depends. As a rule, your liability for credit card fraud will generally be capped at $50.3 However, the process of establishing your innocence and repairing the damage to your reputation can be long and arduous. On average, identity theft victims spend 158 hours working to clear their names.4 What’s more, if your medical records are compromised, the financial cost can be considerable. According to a study by the Medical Identity Theft Alliance, more than 60 percent of medical fraud victims wound up paying an average of $13,500 to straighten things out.5
Why is it so difficult to recover from identity theft?
One reason is that victims usually don’t realize what’s happened for several months. By the time they catch on, there are bills in their name that are months past due. While you can recover eventually, you’re likely to find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a loan or credit approval in the interim. Many recovery experts suggest waiting an additional six months before applying for loans or a new credit card.6
Steering clear of identity thieves
CIT Bank takes customer security very seriously and employs a range of advanced authentication processes, firewalls, anti-virus protection and encryption blocks to keep your assets, information and identity safe. At the same time, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from identity fraud and theft:7
- Review all statements monthly. This includes bank and credit card statements and medical insurance explanation of benefits. If you spot an irregularity, report it immediately.
- Safeguard important papers. Lock up private records at home, shred materials you no longer need, and never tempt snoops and scavengers by putting sensitive documents in the trash.
- Keep your Social Security number secure. While you may often be asked to share your number, it’s probably not always necessary. Use other forms of ID when possible and keep your Social Security card under lock and key.
- Lower your social media profile. If you use social networks, don’t include your birthdate and other personal data in your public profile. Minimize your online footprint by setting social accounts to private.
- Secure your mobile device. Set a password for your home screen, be cautious when downloading applications and avoid unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots. Also update to the latest operating system as soon as it becomes available to ensure you’re getting the most current protection.
- Scramble that password. A mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers or symbols is hardest for hackers to crack — and don’t use your mother’s maiden name or the word “password.”
- Keep your passwords personal. Never give out your passwords to anyone — or just about anyone. (You’re probably on safe ground sharing your information with a trusted spouse.)
- Be wary of phishing scams. Phishing is an attempt to steal personal information or money by sending emails in the guise of a trusted business, friend or family member, using contact information taken from the victim’s own saved emails. Victims are instructed to click a link or verify account data; if they comply, the information they divulge can be used to access their bank accounts and withdraw money. Don’t open suspicious-looking emails or attachments from unknown sources and never comply with requests for personal information.
- Know the signs. Criminals are constantly devising new ways to steal your passwords, so staying current on the latest schemes is key. Consult these two useful resources: the IRS's Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft and the identify theft section of the U.S. Department of Justice website.
A note to customers of CIT Bank, N.A.
Fraudsters often view mergers between financial institutions as an opportunity to take advantage of changes in processes and protocols. If you are an account holder at CIT Bank, N.A., please be cautious of communications from unfamiliar parties as they could be fraud. If you are unsure of any phone or email communication asking you for your personal or CIT Bank account information, please contact us immediately at 855-462-2652.
7 http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft; http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2010/07/protect-your-identity/index.htm
This information is made available to you as a self-help tool for your independent use and is not intended to provide investment advice. We cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy and applicability to your individual circumstances. All examples are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes. Please consult with a financial advisor for a solution suitable for your needs.