How to Prevent Online Identity Theft

by Arizona Central Credit Union

Thinking someone can pretend to be you online for financial gain is scary. Unfortunately, in the U.S., identity theft is rising considerably. Being prepared helps protect your identity.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 1.4 million identity thefts were reported in 2020, up from 650,523 in 2019. This is an increase of 113%.

Since your bank is where you manage most of your finances, monitoring your accounts is especially important. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2018, the banking industry had the highest average cost of cybercrime, at $18.4 million, a $1.7-million year-over-year increase.

Reputable banks and credit unions like Arizona Central Credit Union provide fraud protection and cybersecurity tools to protect your personal information. It’s helpful to know how identity theft happens, how to prevent it and warning signs to look for.

How Identity Theft Happens

Identity theft happens when an unauthorized person gets access to your accounts or personal information and uses it for their gain. With your bank account login, identity thieves can:

  • Transfer funds to another account
  • Make online payments/purchases
  • Use information for shady business

In case of fraud, you have limited protection under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. You have 60 days to report to your financial institution. If you wait, the institution isn’t required to investigate, which could make you liable for fraudulent charges.

Always monitor your accounts proactively. That way, you can report fraud to your financial institution, freeze your account and start an investigation.

How To Prevent Online Identity Theft

  • Keep personal information confidential
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited texts, calls and emails
  • Use strong passwords
  • Add multi-factor authentication
  • Update software
  • Beware of phish-y emails
  • Keep devices secure
  • Don’t bank on public Wi-Fi
  • Turn off Bluetooth
  • Never shop on unsafe sites

If you suspect your account has been compromised, alert your provider as soon as possible.

Types of Identity Theft and Warning Signs

Look for warning signs and alert your financial institution if you see something suspicious. It may be the result of one of these types of fraud:

  • Account takeover fraud
  • Someone logging into your account and using it without your knowledge; they could change your password and lock your account access
  • Debit and credit card fraud
  • Someone getting hold of your card information and, with the physical card or numerical details, using that to make fraudulent purchases
  • Online shopping fraud
  • Hackers getting into a website account and using your saved information to shop online

The FTC recommends to:

  • Track bills when they’re due. If you’re not receiving a statement as usual, someone may have changed your billing address.
  • Review bills and look for charges you didn’t make.
  • Monitor your bank statements and watch for unrecognizable withdrawals.
  • Get a free credit report at or, if you’re an ACCU member, use our SavvyMoney tool for your free comprehensive credit report.
  • Some financial institutions offer proactive account monitoring. If applicable, sign up to be contacted whenever suspicious charges are attempted.

Get Extra Help with Identity Monitoring Services

These services notify you when your information shows up in change-of-address requests, arrest and court records, orders for utilities and other services, and requests to cash a check. There’s also identity theft insurance available for extra protection.

Arizona Central Credit Union cares about your security and works to protect your identity. Learn about identity protection on checking services — or contact us at if you have questions or would like to open an account.

The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment or legal advice.

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