Tips on How to Keep Your Identity Safe

August 5, 2016 | Dan Colt

Tips on How to Keep Your Identity Safe

Tips on How to Keep Your Identity Safe

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is when someone gets ahold of your personal information, such as your driver license number, Social Security Number (SSN), bank account number, address and birthday that can be used to get credit or open accounts in your name. Identity thieves can also use your personal information to obtain residence or to commit crimes with false identification and leave you with a criminal record.

There are two categories for identity theft: True name theft and account takeover theft. True name identity theft occurs when a thief uses personal information to open new accounts, such as a new checking account or credit card. Account takeover identity theft occurs when a thief uses your information to take over your existing account(s), where they may withdraw money from your checking account or use your credit or debit card to make purchases.

How do identity thieves get your information?

There are many ways that identity thieves target victims. Some are electronic, like hacking databases and email accounts, but most identity theft occurs in the real world. Identity thieves can go as far as searching through personal trash cans to find personal paperwork and mail containing your information. “Shoulder surfing” is also a common method, where an identity thief will stand near you at a public office like the DMV or even in a café and note your personal information as you fill out paperwork or online forms.

Identity thieves can also intercept mail. They often target letters that have a good chance of containing important information, such as tax returns and payments, insurance company correspondence and the like.

In addition to being aware of your surroundings wherever you are taking care of your important personal errands, here are more tips you can implement to help protect your identity:

  1. Don’t send personal information via email
    You should avoid sending privileged information, like your social security number, driver license number or bank account number, in an email. If you absolutely must do so, perhaps for a payment form for an employer or in an insurance application, send your information in a password protected (encrypted) document as an attachment to the email rather than in the body of the email. Then, deliver the password to your recipient in a separate communication, such as via text message or, ideally, calling them on the phone so that there is no written record of the password. Once you receive confirmation from the intended recipient, delete your email from your “sent” folder so that the record of your document is gone in case your email account is later compromised.
  2. Bank online vs. through the mail
    Checks have a lot of identifying information on them, including your bank account number, routing number, name, address and signature. Thieves can steal your checks in the mail and modify them to withdraw money from your account or use your account to pay their own bills.

    Mission Fed Checking Account holders have access to Online Banking and Mobile Banking, which allow you, depending on which device you’re using, to deposit checks, send money to others and pay bills without having to visit your local branch or drive around with this important information on you. There are hackers and identity thieves who target digital transactions, but by following a few guidelines to stay safe while banking online, you can help protect your financial identity.

  3. Sign up for text fraud alerts and identity theft protection
    There are several measures of protection that Mission Fed members benefit from when they open a Debit or Credit Card. MasterCard® ID Theft Alerts is a free service that alerts Mission Fed cardholders when personal information is being bought or sold online. Once you register for the service, you simply enter the personal information you want monitored, such as your Credit or Debit Card, social security number, driver license and other personal information, and you will be notified if the information is ever listed on the dark web.
  4. Start using your Mobile Wallet
    Mission Fed Debit and Credit Cards are compatible with Apple Pay®, Android Pay and Samsung Pay®, which let you purchase goods and services from many retailers using your phone. In addition, these services notify you instantly every time a charge has been made with your connected card(s). If someone uses your account to make a purchase, you will know immediately so you can take quicker action to resolve it.
  5. Monitor your credit
    You can purchase credit monitoring services from any of the major credit bureaus. They will alert you if any inquires have been made about your credit, any new accounts that may be suspected fraud that they find, missed or late payments and if your debt has changed by a significant amount in the last month. Credit monitoring services come in handy if you suspect that your identity may have been stolen, because the activity alerts let you know if someone is using your identity.


References to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name in this article by Mission Federal Credit Union is for the information and convenience of its readers and does not constitute endorsement, control or warranty by Mission Federal Credit Union. This article contains links for websites that Mission Fed does not control. Mission Fed is not responsible and does not assume liability for the operations, content, links, privacy or security policies of third party websites.

Picture of Dan Colt

Dan Colt

Dan Colt is VP Technology Management at Mission Federal Credit Union. He has over 25 years of experience in the Information Technology industry, including numerous aspects such as security, data processing, disaster recovery and project management.

More Blog Posts

Financial Tips for Happy Holidays

Photo of a happy couple who have used Mission Fed's financial tips for their holiday shopping.

The holiday season is here and we have some tips to help you with your finances. Read on to get our...

The holiday season is here and we have some tips to help you with your finances. First, plan and stick to a holiday budget. Second, make sure your savings is making money for you by opening the right type of Savings Account. And third, don’t stress about going over...

How extra money from a HELOC helps—let us count the ways

Photo of a HELOC-using couple remodeling their house.

It’s spring and my “to do” list has never looked so good. With all the exciting trips and projects...

It’s spring and my “to do” list has never looked so good. With all the exciting trips and projects coming up in the next few months, I’m making sure to plan my budget and so should you. Luckily, my Home Equity Line of Credit is here to help! And with low payments, no...

Let’s Talk Low Auto Loan Rates

Illustration from the 'Dad, we need to talk' cartoon.

Have you had the APR talk yet? Buying a new car is exciting for you and your family! It’s also a...

Have you had the APR talk yet? Buying a new car is exciting for you and your family! It’s also a major purchase, and Mission Fed is here to help you. Read more about Auto Loans, our Bottom Line Rates Every Day and access our Auto Loan Guide.

How to Access the Equity in Your Home

photo of a hand holding a small house made of folded dollar bills

Your home is an asset that may contain equity. Apply for a Home Equity Loan, Home Equity Line of...

Your home is an asset that may contain equity. You can turn that equity into cash to use for major purchases like a vacation or school tuition, a home remodel or solar panels, to consolidate debt and much more! Apply for a Home Equity Loan, Home Equity Line of Credit or...

Branch/ATM Locator

Search for Mission Fed Branches and ATMs, or 30,000 CO-OP Network ATMs Nationwide