What is identity theft protection, and why is it important to protect yourself?
Curious how you can help protect yourself and your family from identity theft? We have some tips and information on how you can help protect your identity.
Your identity is invaluable, and fraudsters are constantly trying to get their hands on your information in new and different ways. Taking a few precautions can help you protect your identity both online and in daily life.
How common is identity theft?
Identity theft is more common than you might assume. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports, up 45 percent from 2019; consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion related to identity theft and fraud†. Such staggering numbers can make it seem like identity theft is inevitable, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Taking precautionary measures can help you protect and secure your identity and your money.
How can I help protect my identity?
Protecting your identity starts with you. Here are a few tips on how you can help keep your information safe, especially online and digitally.
- Maintain Strong, Unique, and Updated Passwords. Make sure every online account has a strong, unique password to help protect your information from ending up in the hands of hackers. Update your passwords every 60 to 90 days to help avoid them being discovered or stolen over time. Never give out your passwords, use the same password for more than one account, store them in your computer or device, or write them down in an easily accessible place.
- Check Your Statements. Review your monthly bank statements to check for suspicious charges and inconsistences. Many banks provide your bank statements by mail, online, or through a mobile app.
- Avoid Public Wi-Fi. Public wi-fi networks are frequently unprotected and unencrypted, which can leave your information vulnerable to hackers and fraudsters.
- Consider App Downloads. If you’re downloading a new app to your smartphone, review the ratings and comments in the app stores to be sure it is safe to use.
- Never Reply to Spam Phone Calls, Emails, or Text Messages. Hackers and fraudsters often send spam text messages or emails with fraudulent links that can install viruses or other software on your devices to steal your information. Fraudsters may also call your home or cell phone pretending to be a legitimate business like the IRS or your bank, also known as vishing.
Instead of giving a caller sensitive information about your identity on the phone, hang up and dial the business or institution yourself directly to confirm that the call was legitimate. Remember: Huntington will never ask you for account numbers or passwords by phone, email, or text, and will never call you to confirm a verification code.
- Shred Junk Mail and Unnecessary Documents. The internet isn’t the only place your identity may be vulnerable. Credit card applications, old bills, and other junk mail can include sensitive information printed on it like your full name, social security number, and home address. Shredding documents before throwing them out can help prevent thieves from accessing your information.
- Keep Personal Information Private. Don’t give out your personal information to survey takers, salespeople, charity workers, or other strangers who may approach you. Fraudsters may pose as legitimate workers to access sensitive information.
- Keep an Eye on Your Belongings. Keep your wallet, ID, credit cards, and other identifying documents locked in a secure location. Report missing or stolen cards and documents immediately. Do not keep your wallet or purse visible in a locked vehicle as fraudsters can easily break a window and steal them.
How to help protect your child from identity theft
This might be a surprise, but children are frequently targeted and victims of identity theft. Fraudsters steal children’s identities because parents aren’t always aware that someone might have stolen a child’s information until they receive something suspicious like a bill in a child’s name or notification from the IRS that the child has not paid income taxes‡. This could drastically affect a child’s credit history once they become an adult.
Javelin Strategy & Research’s most recent Child Identity Fraud Study showed that more than 1 million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017, with losses totaling $2.6 billion and families paying more than $540 million out of pocket. Two-thirds of identity fraud victims are younger than eight years old§.
To help prevent your child’s identity from being stolen, consider these tips:
- Monitor their internet usage to make sure they aren’t posting any identifying information on social media or elsewhere online.
- Get credit reports in your child’s name to make sure no one tries to use their information to open a bank account, sign up for credit cards, apply for unemployment, or make fraudulent purchases.
- If you can, set up alerts for your child’s information, so you can be notified if someone tries to use your child’s identity.
If you’re a Huntington customer, you can take advantage of our digital banking tools like Huntington Heads Up® for notifications about your bank account and real-time insights so that you can make more informed financial decisions¶.
Open a Huntington Platinum Perks Checking℠ Account for ID Monitoring at no added cost.
With a Huntington Platinum Perks Checking Account, you can access tools like Credit Score & Identity Monitoring that can alert you to activity with your personal information and financial accountsΩΩ.
How can you take steps to help protect against identity theft?
Identity theft protection can include the security measures you take personally, or the services you hire, to help protect your information online and beyond. ID theft protection steps can help you have a proactive or a reactive approach. A proactive, protective approach means making every effort to help prevent theft before it happens. A reactive approach involves resolving an identity theft security breach after it occurs.
A proactive approach can include:
- Helping protect your accounts with strong passwords and security questions.
- Signing up for fraud alerts¶ with your bank or credit union for instant notification of suspicious activity.
- Using a VPN to encrypt your data while you’re online.
- Applying for a yearly free credit report to monitor the activity on your account.
A reactive approach can include:
- Freezing accounts and credit cards.
- Reporting the theft to your bank or credit union.
- Filing an identity theft report with the FTC.
- Claiming the theft with your insurance company.
Both approaches can help you prevent fraudsters from being able to steal your money if they happen to access your personal information. It’s important to start proactively with your approach, so you can avoid losing money the bank is unable to recover and helping assure that your identity hasn’t been compromised elsewhere.
If fraudsters have access to information like your name, address, or Social Security Number, they may be able to commit fraud in your name including:
- Applying for debit or credit cards.
- Making withdrawals from your bank account.
- Applying for government programs like unemployment, healthcare, or welfare.
- Making fraudulent purchases online and in stores.
- Buying illegal drugs or weapons and committing further crimes.
How do I help protect my bank account from identity theft?
To help protect your bank account from identity theft, keep your passwords strong, unique, and updated frequently. Read every bank or credit card statement to make sure there are no discrepancies. If your account requires security questions, choose your responses wisely. Instead of responding truthfully with answers that could be easily guessed or stolen – such as your mother’s maiden name – invent unique answers that are known only to you.
If your bank offers fraud alerts and identity protection, sign up to help prevent identity theft from occurring and to discover it immediately if fraudsters do manage to access your account. The threat of identity theft can be overwhelming but being proactive can help you securely manage your accounts and your identity.
† Insurance Information Institute. Accessed June 26, 2021.
‡ “How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft”. Federal Trade Commission. April 2021.
§ “Child Identity Fraud Hit More Than One Million U.S. Victims in 2017 According to New Javelin Strategy & Research Study”. Javelin Strategy & Research. April 24, 2018.
¶ Message and data rates may apply.
ΩΩ The Monitoring Services are optional and are not available with all accounts, Enrollment requires agreement to the Services' Terms & Conditions, which include important legal terms that a customer should read carefully before deciding whether to enroll.
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The information provided in this document is intended solely for general informational purposes and is provided with the understanding that neither Huntington, its affiliates nor any other party is engaging in rendering financial, legal, technical, or other professional advice or services, or endorsing any third-party product or service. Any use of this information should be done only in consultation with a qualified and licensed professional who can take into account all relevant factors and desired outcomes in the context of the facts surrounding your particular circumstances. The information in this document was developed with reasonable care and attention. However, it is possible that some of the information is incomplete, incorrect, or inapplicable to particular circumstances or conditions. NEITHER HUNTINGTON NOR ITS AFFILIATES SHALL HAVE LIABILITY FOR ANY DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES (DIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT OR OTHERWISE) RESULTING FROM USING, RELYING ON OR ACTING UPON INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT EVEN IF HUNTINGTON AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF OR FORESEEN THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES.