(5 minute read) — According to the Center for Victim Research, 7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year (2020).
Per the FTC, Oregon and Washington respectively received the 18th and 13th most fraud reports among the 50 states, standardized for state population. That means we can’t be 100% certain fraud won’t occur, but if you learn the signs of identity theft, you can protect yourself and your finances from this type of fraud.
Unitus remains vigilant in keeping you and your accounts safe from loss. And if you ever experience identity theft or any kind of fraud, we are right here to help walk you through the process.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact us immediately.
You can take action right now to reduce your risk. To learn how to defend against stolen identity fraud, start with this checklist.
Recognize common signs of identity theft.
As more people use technology, fraudsters have more opportunities to try to steal personal identifiable information (PII). Once someone accesses your PII, they can use it to access your financial accounts. To stop criminals in their tracks, look out for these common red flags and take caution when you:
- Find new accounts on your credit reports that you didn’t open
- Fail to receive a bill or statement you were expecting
- Find unexpected charges on your account, or charges from unrecognized vendors
- Notice that checks posting to your account are out of numeric order
- Receive credit cards you didn’t apply for
- Are suddenly denied credit or offered less-than-favorable credit terms for no clear reason
- Receive calls from creditors or debt collectors regarding purchases or services you did not authorize
(Learn more: watch this brief video about identity theft. In less than three minutes, you’ll learn how fraudsters gain access to your private information and how to safeguard your data.)
Understand the common identity theft scams.
Identity theft continues to grow and become more innovative. Thankfully, when you report identity theft, authorities investigate and share information which helps prosecute perpetrators and protect others.
To avoid becoming a victim, watch out for these common tactics:
Phishing happens via email. You get a request that appears to be from a trusted source, like your financial institution. In reality, it’s from a malicious actor trying to steal your information.
Phishing emails will often tell you to click a certain link or ask you to share your personal information. To coerce compliance, it usually comes with a threat: for example, “your account will be suspended” if you don’t act quickly. “Acting quickly” is a way to prevent you from thinking clearly. If you see these signs, it’s probably a phishing scam.
Smishing (SMS Text Phishing)
Smishing is similar to phishing. But instead of email, criminals use SMS text messages to collect your PII. Again, the message appears to be both legitimate and urgent. It may even pose as an alert from the credit union’s fraud department regarding recent suspicious activity on your account.
The message will direct you to click a link, which will take you to a fake website asking you to enter sensitive information such as your credit or debit card number, CVV code, PIN, or account login credentials. Even if you enter no information, clicking the link could download malware (software designed for data theft, among other things) that can scan your device for PII.
Vishing (Voice Phishing)
Vishing involves automated voice messages or live phone calls. Your caller ID could show a random number, or it even might falsely display a trusted source as the caller, such as your financial institution.
In some cases, you might receive an email or text message urging you to call a telephone number to verify your account details due to a potential account breach.
When you call the number, an automated voice message says something like: “Welcome to account verification. Please enter your 16-digit account number.” The goal is to get you to enter your account or card number and other personal information.
A live caller may also ask for your one-time passcode to gain access to your account. Once a fraudster logs into your account, they typically change the password to lock you out, then transfer funds from your account to their own.
“7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year (2020).”
Take action to prevent stolen identity fraud. There are simple ways you can protect yourself from identity fraud.
Start with these one-time steps that provide lasting benefits:
- Log into digital banking and update the contact information on your Unitus account. Make sure your phone number, email, and street address are all up to date so we can contact you quickly if any suspicious activity occurs on your account. Early detection is the most effective way to limit or eliminate loss.
- Set up account alerts to get notifications by email or text about transactions, balances, deposits, and more. To learn how, visit our step-by-step digital banking guides, then click “Setting Up Account Alerts”.
- Enroll in Fraud Text Alerts so we can notify you instantly via SMS of any suspicious activity on your account. Again, early detection is key.
- Download the Unitus Card Guard mobile app to help prevent credit card fraud. The app allows you to instantly turn your Unitus card off or on to ensure only you can use it. The app also allows you to set spending alerts or instant notifications of account activity, to ensure only you have complete control over your card.
Even with these measures in place, it’s possible for criminals to access your account – if you let them. For identity theft protection, follow these guidelines:
- When receiving calls: Remember that fraudsters can falsify caller ID so your phone displays the name of a real company. Be cautious when answering voice calls, even if they appear to be from people or businesses you know well. To make sure it’s legitimate, hang up and call them back using a number you know is safe, such as the one listed on your account statement. Do not dial the same number that called you.
Note: Unitus uses a 24/7 fraud monitoring service called “Falcon Fraud” to help keep your accounts safe. In case of a suspicious charge they will call or text you to verify the purchase. These are legitimate communications. Add their number into your phone now 1-866-864-9678 so you can respond quickly in case they contact you.
- When receiving emails or texts: Never click on hyperlinks inside the text or email. Visit the site on your own. And never reply with private information.
- At all times: Remember that Unitus will never ask for personal information, account information, or your PIN (Personal Identification Number) in an email message. If you receive a phishing email from what appears to be Unitus, please report it to our fraud department and delete the email from your mailbox.
Take action if you think you might be the victim of identity theft.
If you notice suspicious activity on any Unitus account, credit card or debit card, we are here to help. Contact us immediately using a method below:
- Visit our Virtual Branch to live chat or video chat instantly.
- Call us at 503-227-5571 or 1-800-452-0900 to get help from a Member Service Specialist.
- To report lost or stolen debit or credit card after business hours, call 503-227-8315 or 1-800-422-3132 (option 2).
We also encourage you to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. government agency tasked with investigating deceptive or unfair business practices. This will help protect other innocent people from fraud.
While Unitus will never stop monitoring for fraud, you can take identity theft protection into your own hands. Use this checklist to recognize the signs, spot the scams, and prevent identity theft before it happens.
About the author: DJ Jones
DJ joined the Unitus Community Credit Union family in May 2018 to lead the Fraud & Security Department.
She brings over twenty-five years’ experience in investigations with a background that encompasses data breach remediation, identity theft restoration, insurance and legal investigations and financial services.
Originally from Alabama (Roll Tide!), Portland has been her home for 18 years. She and her wife are self-described foodies that love to travel and explore.