Financial Wellness

Safeguard Your Identity

Data breaches are not just headline news. It is a serious matter that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history and reputation, and it can take time, money and patience to resolve.

CEFCU is doing its part to protect your information. Safeguarding member data is ingrained in our everyday activities by implementing highly sophisticated threat detection and prevention systems, which are actively monitored by our Information Security Department.

You also play an important role in safeguarding your identity. Consider the following facts and advice.

What's At Risk?

Personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, can be stolen due to a data breach.

This information can be extremely valuable to cybercriminals — from opening credit cards to applying for lines of credit to even obtaining a government-issued identification card in your name. A lot of information about you and your payment activity is out there and could be used to open accounts and obtain loans for years to come.

Take Action

CEFCU urges you to continue to take routine measures to prevent and detect identification fraud with the following:

  • Reset account passwords, PIN codes and other log-in credentials on financial accounts. Use sophisticated passwords with at least 8 characters including numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Establish multiple-authentication protocols for financial accounts and emails.
  • Review statements and accounts carefully — not just from your primary financial institution but for credit card, retirement and brokerage accounts too. Look for and report any suspicious activity.
  • Sign up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service.

Can you do more to protect your identity?

Additional options to prevent identity theft causing you to have to clean up your credit include:

  • Credit Freeze – Most effective, most inconvenient
  • Fraud Alerts – Less effective, less inconvenient
  • Free Credit Reports – Does not prevent identity theft but gives insight. Can be used in conjunction with a Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert.

Credit Freeze

A Credit Freeze blocks all new credit applications under your identity, until you “unfreeze” it. What a credit freeze will do is prevent anyone from accessing your credit report. So, if a fraudster tries to open a new line of credit using your name, date of birth, and Social Security number, when the lender tries to pull your credit report, it will report it as blocked and request confirmation to proceed.

The credit bureaus will give you a 6-digit number (PIN) you can call to unfreeze or thaw your reports. Keep this PIN safe — because if you lose it, your credit report will remain frozen.

You’ll need to call the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or Trans Union) to ask for a freeze. For more information about a Credit Freeze, its fees and terms, please visit the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information page.

Fraud Alert

A less-impactful alternative to a credit freeze is a fraud alert. A fraud alert requires potential creditors to contact you and obtain your permission before opening new lines of credit in your name. You are allowed by law to file a fraud alert (also called a “security alert”) with one of the credit bureaus every 90 days. Whichever one you file with is required by law to alert the other two bureaus as well.

Fraud alerts last 90 days, and you can renew them as often as you like (a recurring calendar entry can help with this task); consumers who can demonstrate that they are victims or are likely to be victims of identity theft can also apply for a long-term fraud alert that lasts up to 7 years (a police report and other documentation may be required).

Free Credit Reports

You are also entitled by law to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. This means you can check your credit three times a year (once every four months with each of the bureaus). The recommended site to obtain this free copy is Other sites will try to sell you a report, or offer a “free” report if you agree to sign up for some kind of subscription service — usually credit monitoring. There are lots of look-alike sites out there that are not the real, government-mandated service, so watch out.

Your free credit report will show all your lines of credit and other debt obligations, along with lots of data. However, it won’t show your FICO score.

Initiating these changes may be an inconvenience to you, but if it increases the security of your accounts and prevents even one fraudulent transfer, it will be worth it. Early detection and immediate action is the only way to limit and stop the damage that can be done when your personal information is fraudulently accessed and used.