To combat the rising cost of identity theft
and stop fraud's violation of privacy and inconvenience, a Washington-based credit union has declared April the month of ID theft awareness.
More than 9 million people in the United States fall victim to ID theft every year, BECU, the state's largest credit union, says. In an effort to promote awareness of the threat, the credit union is hosting free paper shredding, electronics recycling and theft-prevention education. "Identity theft
can hit any of us," said Ken Kinloch, information protection officer at BECU. "When it comes to identity theft
, preventive measures are the most important. By sharing knowledge, tips and information we hope to empower our members and all Puget Sound residents to take steps to help protect themselves from identity theft
." A few tips for consumers and business owners looking to stop ID theft include monitoring bank and credit card account balances weekly to spot unauthorized charges and discrepancies. Also, don't post personal information in a business location or on a social media website, BECU says. Use unique and hard-to-guess passwords for company computers, and change them regularly. Don't use Social Security numbers as personal identifiers. Businesses can further protect themselves and their consumers from fraudsters by employing best identity verification practices and keeping the sensitive data that ID thieves target secure. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires business owners to give ID theft victims a copy of their transaction records - including applications for credit - that relate to the theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Businesses covered by the law have to send these copies for free, within 30 days of receiving a written request from a customer or law enforcement official. FCRA's section requiring this information applies to businesses that have provided credit, services or goods to, or have accepted payment from, anyone suspected of fraudulently using another person's identification. Company owners who have to supply these documents can ask the ID theft victim to provide relevant information, such as the transaction data or account number. They can also ask for proof of identity, a police report and a completed affidavit from the FTC or local police. It's acceptable to refuse to provide the documents if a business owner cannot verify the identity of the person requesting the information, if the request is based on a misrepresentation or if the request involves internet navigational data or other information about a person's visit to an online service or website, the FTC says.