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Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity fraud happens when someone steals personal information such as your account number or Social Security number and then uses this information illegally to make withdrawals from your accounts or apply for credit in your name.

Take these precautions to protect your information:

  • Be cautious when providing personal information such as your Social Security number and account or credit card information over the telephone, in person or on the Internet. Don't give out this information unless you are sure with whom you are dealing.
  • Protect your Social Security number and the Social Security numbers of your children and other family members by not carrying them in your wallet.
  • Report lost or stolen checks, credit or debit cards immediately. LeTourneau Federal Credit Union will block payment on the check numbers or account numbers involved.
  • Limit the number of credit card pre-approved offers that you receive by removing your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus. Click here to remove your name from their lists now.
  • Store cancelled checks, new checks and account statements in a safe place.
  • Notify the credit union of suspicious phone inquiries such as those asking for account information to "verify a statement" or "award a prize."
  • Review your credit report at least once every year. Make sure all information is up-to-date and accurate.
  • Memorize your PIN (Personal Identification Number) and refrain from writing it, your Social Security number or credit card number on a check.
  • Tear up or shred any pre-approved credit offers to which you do not respond. Thieves can use these offers to assume your identity.
  • Keep mail secure. Don't mail bills or sensitive information from your home or unsecured mailboxes. Retrieve and review your mail promptly. Thieves may use the personal information contained in your mail to steal your identity.
  • If you do not receive your regular bills when expected, call the company to find out why.
  • Review your monthly account statements thoroughly. Investigate suspicious items immediately to head off any possible fraud before it occurs.
  • Do not carry your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate unless needed that day.

If you are a member of LeTourneau Federal Credit Union and you think you are victim of fraud, immediately contact us by calling 903-234-3480 so we can flag your account.

Homeowners insurance--make sure you're covered

Buying a house also involves making sure your house and valuables are protected in case of fire, flood, or some other disaster. Homeowners insurance can protect your property, but make sure the insurance is adequate.

CNNmoney recommends looking for the following in a homeowners insurance policy:

  • Ask your insurer about discounts. Safety devices like smoke alarms and deadbolts can save you 5%, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurers also give 5% to 15% discounts if you buy two or more policies from them.
  • Make sure the insurance covers the cost to rebuild. A cash-value policy may cover only the depreciated value of your home and belongings. A guaranteed replacement clause covers the cost of rebuilding. You may need to purchase more insurance if your insurer's appraisal is low or if your home has handcrafted cabinetry or other expensive features.
  • Homeowners policies don't cover flood, earthquake, and, in most cases, sewer or storm-drain damage. You'll have to purchase separate insurance for that--especially recommended if you live in a high-risk area. This additional insurance can be purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (800-427-4661).
  • Make sure your insurance contains a loss-of-use clause that covers living expenses for temporary housing (rent) during the rebuilding of your house.
  • You may need more insurance to protect what's inside your home. Valuables like jewelry, art, and electronics are usually subject to replacement limits of $1,500 to $2,500 per item. Also, videotape or photograph your possessions and keep a dated record in a safe deposit box or other secure place outside your home.

For more information, read "Federal Insurance Mops Up After Floods," or "Don't Borrow Trouble--Buy Renters Insurance," in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center under the housing section.

What should you keep in a safe deposit box?
There are no laws that limit what you can and cannot put in a safe deposit box. The only restriction may be in the financial institution's contract or lease when a person rents a box.

What should you store in a safe deposit box? About 5% to 10% of the boxes at Florida's unclaimed property division of the state's Banking and Finance department contain substantial cash $5,000 or more.

The most common items stored in safe deposit boxes are jewelry and important papers--originals of birth, marriage, and death certificates; deeds; vehicle titles; stock certificates; bonds; valuable collectibles; and insurance photos of the contents of a home.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says to store items in a safe deposit box that would cause you to be in big trouble if you lost them. Don't store things you would need in an emergency such as a will, a living will, or originals of a power of attorney authorization.

If you're concerned about losing safe deposit contents due to fire, theft, or flood--which is rare, but does happen you might want to consider insuring some items such as jewelry or coins.

People often make an inventory of valuable items in their house to store in a safe deposit box. Jean Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute in New York recommends making an inventory of what's in a safe deposit box and keeping it in the house.

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