Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Washington Trust Bank recommends following these tips to help keep your information—and your money—safe.
Learn ways you can protect your identity.
What to do if you think your identity is at risk.
Tips for Protecting Your Identity
- Update your contact information.
Make sure your contact information with the bank is up to date so we can inform you of any suspicious activity on your accounts.
- Don’t share your secrets.
Don’t provide your social security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.
- Keep personal information personal.
Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
- Shred sensitive papers.
Shred receipts, banks statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail.
Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
- Use online banking to protect yourself.
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
- Monitor your credit report.
Review your credit report at all major credit reporting agencies at least once a year.
- Protect your computer.
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
- Protect your mobile device.
Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make accessing your information more difficult for thieves if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell, or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially from senders you don’t know.
- Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
- Add a password to your account.
You can add a password to your Washington Trust accounts at any branch for an added layer of protection. For more information about this, you can reach out to our Priority Service team at (800) 788-4578.
What to Do If You Think Your Identity Is at Risk
The recent Equifax breach affected about 143 million Americans, compromising social security numbers, license numbers, credit card numbers and dispute documents containing personal identifying information. While we have verified that accounts with Washington Trust Bank have not been specifically affected, there are a variety of ways this breach could affect our customers. If you are concerned that your information has been compromised as part of this breach, there are a few steps you can take to help ensure that your information will not be used by someone else.
Note: Credit bureaus operate independently and require any actions to be completed at each company separately. A fraud alert, lock or freeze at one bureau affects only that bureau.
Fraud Alert Status
All bureaus offer a fraud alert status that requires potential creditors to contact the consumer and obtain permission to open new accounts or lines of credit. If enacted, this alert will remain intact for 90 days. With proper documentation, such as a police report, this can be extended for up to seven years. Without this documentation, the consumer must reengage every 90 days.
Security Freeze / Lock
All bureaus offer this status and vary in options for placement or removal. Enacting a security freeze or lock prevents access to the consumer’s credit report until the consumer has unlocked or suspended their freeze.
Certain options require payment and vary by bureau. While every bureau offers paid freeze/lock options, there are some that offer the consumer independent online controls free of charge:
Free Credit Bureau Reports
All bureaus are required by law to provide at least one free credit report per year. It is highly recommended that consumers take advantage of this offering and review their reports annually.
If you are concerned that your personal information could have been compromised, file your taxes as early as possible to help prevent identity thieves from using that information to file a false tax return.
Additional Protection Options
- Washington Trust Bank’s financial management tool, MoneyDesktop, allows customers to aggregate their available online accounts from most financial institutions in one place, allowing for easier account monitoring. You can access MoneyDesktop through WTB Online.
- Third-party services such as Credit Karma provide free Equifax and TransUnion monitoring.
- Third-party services such as Identity GUARD and LifeLock provide credit monitoring for a fee.
To set a fraud alert or put a freeze/lock on your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus:
Equifax 800-525-6285 Equifax.com
Experian 888-397-3742 Experian.com
TransUnion 800-680-7289 Transunion.com
More Information on the Equifax Breach
Equifax is contacting all of the individuals that had their credit card numbers or dispute documents stolen, but consumers who had other information compromised as part of the breach will not be notified. For more information about the breach and to see if you were one of the potential victims of the incident, you can visit the Equifax website.
This information could give you a good starting point for how you want to move forward with the above potential actions.
For additional information and resources about identity theft, you can also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.