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Tip of the Week

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

There is no definite way to ensure you will not become a victim of identity theft. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances that your information will be stolen and used by a thief.

First, pay close attention to your credit report and regularly check for inaccuracies. You are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the major credit report agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—so if you pull one every few months, you can continually stay up-to-date throughout the year. You can order a detailed summary from each agency by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

Next, never give out your Social Security number, bank account, or other private data to unknown organizations or people. Most people who fall victim to identity theft mistakenly give out their personal information to fraudsters who appear to be representing a legitimate business. Remember, even a financial institution that you work with will not contact you asking for this information.


  • Use a different personal identification number (PIN) or password for each personal account, and change them frequently.
  • Look out for phishing, where an email looks like it is from a real financial institution or store but is meant to trick you into supplying personal data.
  • Install firewalls and anti-spyware on your computer to prevent viruses or downloads designed to steal your personal information.
  • Leave your Social Security card, bank account numbers, passwords, and PINs at home.
  • Shred papers that have account numbers or other personal details on them.
  • Stop junk mail and credit card offers from being delivered to your home. Stop most solicitations by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT, or online at www.optoutprescreen.com.

For more tips on protecting your personal information from Internet fraud, visit www.onguardonline.gov.


Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.