Consumer Protection: About Identity Theft

The following are common questions from our members and the answers that normally fulfill the associated need. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us directly via phone at 206-628-4010, toll free at 888-628-4010 or via secured message within your digital banking account.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name or personal information, such as your Social Security number, driver's license number, credit card number, telephone number or other account numbers, without your permission. Identity thieves use this information to open credit accounts, bank accounts, telephone service accounts, and make major purchases - all in your name. Information can be used to take over your existing accounts or to open new accounts. Identity theft can result in damage to your credit rating and denials of credit and job offers.

Identity theft commonly begins with the loss or theft of a wallet or purse.  

Identity theft can also occur with not properly disposing private personal information like statements, old expired IDs, previous checks or debit/credit cards.

But there are many other ways that criminals can get and use your personal information in order to commit identity theft. To learn more and see examples of identity theft, read this article on PrivacyRights.org.

While there is no guarantee that your identity will never be stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:

  • Sign up for and use online banking to reduce the amount of paperwork with your personal information on it.
  • Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet.
  • Shred any documentation with personal or financial information on it.
  • Do not use debit cards at all when shopping online.
  • Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, and investments -- the account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service department.
  • Never give out your SSN, credit or debit card number or other personal information over the phone, by mail, or on the Internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you have initiated the call.
  • Install security software that protects against viruses and scans for spyware to protect your computer.
  • Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks.
  • Watch the mail when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive.
  • Order your credit report at least once a year.
  • Create strong passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers), do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother's mother's maiden name, your birthdate, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves. Create a different PIN/password for each account.
  • Memorize all your passwords, don't write them down.
  • Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet except for situations when it is required.

For more resources and ways to keep your identify safe, see PrivacyRights.org's article Coping with Identity Theft: Reducing the Risk of Fraud.