Tips on How to Keep Your Identity Safe

August 5, 2016 | Dan Colt

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.

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.

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