Protect Your Credit
By: First Community Bank
One of life’s most important numbers is your FICO score. Ranging from 300 to 850—the higher the better—it tells creditors how good you are at paying your bills and it’s the first thing they’ll check when you apply for a credit card, a job, a loan or even insurance. Sadly, your FICO number could be in jeopardy in today’s highly connected, digital world as criminals find more opportunities to commit identity theft and credit fraud. Develop good habits to protect yourself and know what to do if you’re a victim.
Protect Your Credit and Personal Information
- Keep a record of all PINS, passwords, account numbers, credit cards and contact information in a safe place. This is particularly helpful if you need to call and report stolen credit cards, or checkbook, etc.
- A stolen or lost wallet or purse can be a goldmine for thieves by providing access to your personal information used for identity theft. Carry only the credit cards you regularly use; never carry your Social Security card, voter’s registration card, etc.
- Some credit cards give you the option of requiring an ID when they are used; take advantage of this safeguard whenever available.
- Carefully check your credit card and bank statements for irregularities and shred them instead of just tossing them in the trash.
- Don’t share secure information over the phone. Your bank, the IRS, etc. won’t contact you to ask for this type of information.
- Always be careful about links and attachments found in emails, texts, or pop-up ads, especially from senders you don’t know.
- Monitor your credit on a regular basis. By law, you are allowed one free report annually from each of the three credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—so make a schedule and request one every four months on a rotating basis. (Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the government authorized source for free credit reports.)
If You’re a Victim
- If your wallet or purse has been lost or stolen, contact your bank and credit card issuers, the DMV regarding your license, your auto and health insurance companies and any other agencies as needed. Also alert local law enforcement and file a report.
- Thieves can also steal and use your credit card number without physically taking your card. If you see a suspicious charge on your statement, immediately contact your credit card company and if possible, the business where the transaction took place.
- If you discover a fraudulent account was opened in your name, contact the creditor immediately to notify them and discuss the steps you’ll need to take to resolve the issue. Ask questions, including what charges, if any, you might be liable for and get it in writing.
- Contact the three credit monitoring companies and discuss other available actions, such as freezing your credit. Continue reviewing your credit reports, to be sure it was an isolated incident.
- If it is a recurring problem, you may well be a victim of identity theft. If so, file a report with your local police department, contact the credit monitoring companies and visit the Federal Trade Commission site, www.IdentityTheft.gov, to help you develop a recovery plan.
- Keep all notes and correspondence related to the fraud incident in case they are needed in the future.
Learn more about First Community Bank at fcbot.com.
Member FDIC | Equal Housing Lender