SEATTLE, April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- More than nine million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year. Aside from the violation of privacy and inconvenience, identity theft is becoming more expensive for consumers and financial institutions. According to a recent study, the average out-of-pocket cost to an identity theft victim in 2010 was $631, and total losses were estimated at $37 billion.
To help prevent identity theft in the Puget Sound area, BECU, Washington's largest credit union, is declaring April Identity Theft Awareness month to educate residents about steps they can take to protect themselves. BECU is providing tips to residents and hosting free paper shredding and electronic recycle events at several BECU locations around the Puget Sound area. At these events, residents can shred their sensitive documents for free, recycle unwanted electronics and get information on what they can do to help protect themselves against identity theft.
"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."
The recent study, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research also noted that while cases of identity theft have fallen 28 percent since 2009, the costs to victims have skyrocketed. "BECU invites the entire community to learn a few simple steps to keep their identity safe," continued Kinloch. "It takes a huge amount of time and hassle to untangle identity theft. We want to arm our members with the best information and resources to protect themselves. That's why we are hosting paper shredding and computer recycling events."
Tips to help prevent identity theft include:
- Monitor current available bank and credit card account balances at least weekly, via online, mobile, ATM, or touch-tone banking – check for discrepancies or unauthorized charges.
- Don't publish your birth date, mother's maiden name, pet's name or other identifying and personal information on social media websites.
- Use unique and hard-to-guess passwords, including the password for your wireless Internet connection, and don't access secure Web sites using public Wi-Fi connections.
- When your Social Security number is requested as an identifier in paper documents, ask if you can provide alternate information.
- Request electronic statements, use direct deposit, and don't put checks in an unlocked mailbox.
At the BECU shredding and electronics recycling events, residents can bring up to three grocery bags or three banker's boxes of sensitive information to be shredded. They can also bring unwanted computers, laptops, monitors, TVs or cell phones all to be recycled for free.
- Saturday, April 16th from 10 AM-1 PM
- BECU Tukwila Financial Center parking lot, 12770 Gateway Dr.
- BECU Everett Financial Center parking lot, 11127 Evergreen Way S.
- BECU Federal Way Pavilion parking lot, 31411 Pacific Hwy S.
The event will include onsite secured shredding provided by Iron Mountain, a professional document destruction company, electronic recycling by E-waste and an information center to answer questions and provide additional tips. Additional details can be found at: becu.org/news
For more information about preventing identity theft, go to becu.org/news or www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, BECU is a not-for-profit credit union owned by the members. Profits are returned to the members in the form of better rates and fewer fees. With more than 680,000 members and more than $9 billion in assets, BECU is the largest credit union in Washington and one of the top five financial cooperatives in the country. BECU currently operates over 45 locations in the Puget Sound region. All Washington state residents and students attending Washington colleges and universities are eligible to join.