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Steps that can help prevent identity theft

Date posted:  11/2/17 04:30:00 PM How to stay safe online.

In September 2017, one of the largest credit monitoring agencies in the U.S. reported it had been the victim of digital theft. The New York Times reported that the breach at credit bureau Equifax, which creates and manages credit reports for U.S. consumers, may have leaked sensitive information on as many as 143 million Americans‡. According to experts who spoke with the Times about the incident, in their opinion, this leak was "about as bad as it gets," and represented a significant risk to consumers in terms of data privacy.

What to do about data security

With data breaches becoming more frequent, most people should be taking their data security more seriously, regardless of if they know or believe they have been impacted by a specific incident. Experts recommend taking the time to understand where the biggest risks lie, and taking steps to keep data security at the top of your list of priorities, including:

Activate account monitoring

Before a data breach, it's a good idea to look into activating account monitoring through your bank or credit card services. These include text and mobile alerts to let you know if your username or password has changed as well as messages about balance changes. In addition, there are a variety of free and subscription-based credit monitoring and management applications for both iPhone and Android devices.

Credit freeze

Credit freezes, also known as security freezes, place a lock on access to a borrower's credit report. These freezes go further than either credit monitoring by making credit reports inaccessible to lenders and others who might have an interest in viewing a consumer's credit history. Credit freezes aren't a set-it-and-forget-it solution. While a freeze can help keep a fraudster from opening new accounts in a person's name, they won't prevent continued activity on an account they've already assumed.

Updating passwords for online accounts

Be sure you are using passwords that are not easy to guess, and update them on a regular basis. Some security experts use a password management service, which may charge a small fee to generate strong passwords automatically and store them securely. Generally, passwords should be non dictionary words (especially avoid words with a tie to your personal data like a pet's name) at least eight characters in length and a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.

Choosing two-factor authentication when possible

Two-factor authentication is a digital security protocol in which two different forms of verification are required to gain access to an online account. In most cases, this means providing a password as well as a random code that's sent to another device, like your mobile phone via text message. Most online financial institutions, social media websites and email providers now offer two-factor authentication, which can be an important tool in protecting your data.

Taking the right steps if you think you're at risk

If you have reason to suspect one of your personal accounts has been compromised, you need to act quickly. Change the password on the account and follow the steps provided by the service to ensure you have prevented additional unauthorized access to the account. If your credit card or bank account has been impacted, for example, you can work with that institution to close the affected accounts, cancel active cards and take other actions to protect your assets.

General data security tips

  • Think before you click – Be vigilant about the links or attachments you click in a text, email or social media message, especially when they come from companies. If you receive an email or social media message you believe is suspicious, verify it with the sender by calling them or talking in person before taking any action.
  • Never provide personal information over the phone, via email, social media or in person to someone you do not know or suspect may be impersonating a friend, family member or colleague.
  • If you believe the caller or online message isn't legitimate, trust your instinct. Hang up and contact the actual company directly to verify the request.
  • Watch out for phishing scams that use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click links or open attachments or pop-up screens from unfamiliar sources.

To report a suspicious email related to your UMB account, please immediately forward the email to phishing@umb.com. For more information on data security, visit UMB's Security and Privacy page.