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Online identity theft becomes more prominent

Online identity theft affects a large amount of people every year but there are simple precautions that can be taken to prevent this crime.

One of the main steps that people should take is protecting their Social Security number.

“Be wary of who you give your Social Security number to,” a compliance officer at ISU Credit Union said.

“A lot of people give it to anyone these days and once [thieves] have your name, address and Social Security number they have everything.”

It is important for people to only give their Social Security number to a trusted source and never give it to anyone over the phone. Also, the actual card should never be carried around regularly and should be kept in a safe place at home.

Those who own credit and debit cards should write “See ID” on the back, which prevents thieves from using the card. Not doing this puts the cardholder at risk.

Cardholders should also be cautious when shopping online. There are many untrusted and unsecure websites that can hack into your account once the personal information is retrieved. There should be a padlock icon on the bottom of the webpage and if there is not one then buyers should proceed with caution or try another website.

Another simple step people can take is deciding to receive electronic bank account statements instead of paper. Paper statements come in the mail every month and have personal information that thieves are looking for.

“We recommend getting electronic statements sent to a secure email,” Julie Workman, vice president of marketing and business development at Mid-Illini Credit Union, said.

“This way you have to log in to see the statement and it is a more secure first line of defense.”

If electronic statements are not an option, then it is important to shred all bank statements and anything else with personal information that is no longer needed.

When visiting an ATM, cardholders should be aware of their surroundings. There are thieves who can simply retrieve a person’s pin number if they stand close enough. If it seems like a person is getting too close, then make the transaction inside the bank or go to another location.

Workman said that the number of identity theft cases at her branch were less than 10, but this number is definitely much higher at larger banks like Chase or Bank of America.

If someone is a victim of identity theft then it is important for that person to report the instance to the police and their financial institution right away. All credit and debit cards should be canceled to minimize the damage the theft caused.

The idea of identity theft can be terrifying, but if the necessary steps are taken and the person has a cautious mind then reporting a theft will never have to be the final step.

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