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Tips for Preventing Identity Theft and Fraud
Tips for Preventing Identity Theft and Fraud

There are many ways criminals can commit fraud. From identity theft, to credit card and telemarketing scams, criminals are becoming increasingly more adept at gaining access to your personal information and funds. To help combat a rise in fraud and identity theft and maintain Members’ peace of mind and security, we formed a special department with the primary objective of preventing fraud and information misuse. New security systems and procedures were put in place and are continually evaluated to ensure the highest level of security. However, the most important factor in combating fraud is educating our Members about the various types of fraud and ways they can avoid becoming a victim.


Identity Theft
The 1990s spawned a new kind of criminal called an identity thief—one who steals personal information to make purchases or obtain new credit in your name. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to keep important numbers private, such as Social Security, credit card, and personal identification numbers.


Unlike a crook who steals your credit card and goes on a “fraud shopping spree,” then quickly discards your card, identity thieves aren’t interested in your open accounts. Armed with not much more than your date of birth and Social Security number, identity thieves can open new credit accounts in your name, and then use them to purchase goods and services without your knowledge. Because these criminals give creditors an address other than your own, you may never know you’ve been victimized until your next loan application is turned down because of your “bad” credit.


While identity theft is on the rise, there are some basic precautions you can take to significantly lower your risk:


Watch the Mail

  • Never leave incoming or outgoing mail unattended in your mailbox.
  • Any mail containing financial information or checks should be dropped off inside the post office.
  • For added security, get a post office box or a locking mailbox.
  • Request a vacation hold on your mail, even for a weekend getaway.
  • Act quickly if a bill or statement doesn’t arrive on time.
Guard Your Information
  • Know who you’re giving your information to, especially on the phone or online. Be especially wary of disclosing your Social Security number, birth date, and driver’s license, and never do so unless you initiate the contact.
  • Carry as little identification as you need and keep your Social Security card and any unnecessary forms of identification in a secure location at home.
  • Never use your Social Security number as an account number or ID number—ask that it be changed to another number.
Use Caution When Storing and Disposing of Information
  • Before throwing documents in the trash, shred anything that has financial or personal information.
  • Close any accounts you no longer use and destroy cards or other identifying information.
  • Shred unsolicited credit offers and any transaction or purchase receipts you don’t need.
  • Keep a list of all your account numbers and contact information.
  • Keep this list in a secure location and do not take it with you when you travel.
Protect Your Passwords
  • Passwords are hard to remember, but don’t use the same one for everything.
  • Use a combination of numbers and letters for passwords, and never use easy-to-guess passwords, such as birth dates, street address, phone numbers, your name, or any series of consecutive numbers.
  • Password-protect every account you can, including credit card, credit union, bank, and phone accounts.
  • Store passwords in a safe place if you can’t memorize them, and never take them with you.
  • Never store passwords on a laptop or notebook computer, as it may be lost or stolen.

Monitor Your Credit Reports

Criminals count on your unsuspecting cooperation. The longer they avoid detection, the longer they can continue using your good name.

  • The best way to spot identity theft is to monitor your credit reports at least once a year.
  • Watch for any activity you didn’t initiate and notice who has been making inquiries into your report. Act immediately if you suspect a problem.
  • Be sure to order reports from each of the three credit-reporting agencies, as each may contain different information. 
To order a credit report:


P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241


P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013


P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022


To report fraud, notify any of the three major credit-reporting agencies.

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