Five Tips to Protect Your Accounts and Your Identity

With fraud and identity theft on the rise, there are easy ways to protect your financial information and identity. Here are five tips to keep top of mind.

Keep Your PIN Confidential

Your Personal Identification Number or PIN is just that—it’s your key to unlock your financial accounts, so don’t give it out to anyone. Keep in mind that your financial institution will never ask for your PIN or password over the phone, text, or by email, this is always a fraudulent attempt to gain access to your accounts.

New Guidelines to Create Strong Passwords

Up until recently, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advised consumers to create passwords using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, and change them regularly. However, the experts have since found that these “strong” passwords actually made it easier for hackers to crack, and people tended to create weaker passwords each time they changed them using such criteria.  New NIST guidelines recommend creating long passwords using a string of words that contain a combination of letters, numbers and special characters and are easy to remember. According to The Wall Street Journal, studies have shown that four words strung together can be harder to crack than a shorter combination of special characters.

Only Deposit Checks from Trusted Sources

Don’t rely on funds from a check you deposit from an unknown person until it clears. There are many counterfeit check schemes including overpayment scams, which trick you into wiring back money after the fraudster has sent you a phony check that’s more than the amount they owe you. If you accept a check from a person or business you don’t know, ask that it be drawn on a local bank, or a bank that has a local branch, so you can go there in person and verify that the check is valid.

Think Twice Before Providing Your Social Security Number

While you’re required to provide your Social Security number on tax forms or if you open a financial account, it’s within your rights to leave it blank on standard forms—such as at the doctor’s office—or question why a business needs it. According to the Social Security Administration, ask why they need it, how the business plans to use it and what happens if you don’t give it to them. Never carry your card in your wallet; store it in a safe place as well as other documents that may display your number.

Go Mobile, Get Fraud Alerts

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union offers a free Mobile Banking appthat can help you conveniently manage your money and keep your accounts secure. The app offers the option to use your fingerprint to log in on most devices and automatic enrollment in email Fraud Alerts to notify you in the event of suspicious debit card activity.


1Data and text charges may apply. Check with your mobile provider.

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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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