8 Ways to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft

Thanks to a long list of technological advances in the digital age, today’s American consumers can file their taxes, buy and sell stocks, make banking transactions, and file insurance claims more easily than ever before. In fact, in most cases, all of these things (and much more) can be accomplished with a few simple swipes of the smartphone or taps of the keyboard.

But there is a downside to having it so easy. In addition to delivering simplicity and time savings for consumers, all of these modern conveniences also present tech-savvy criminals with new opportunities to steal a person’s personal and/or financial information from nearly anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. So, to keep their money, information and even their own identity well protected, today’s consumers must remain alert, careful and vigilant.

The ID theft threat — and the warning signs

According to the most current yearly statistics available, more than 5.5 million cases of fraud and identity theft were reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2021, with nearly 1.5 million of those being cases of consumers’ identification being stolen. Losses from ID theft cost Americans nearly $6 billion in 2021, with imposter scams accounting for nearly $3 billion of those losses, and nearly $400 million being the result of fraudulent online shopping. In addition, overall cases of fraud reported in 2021 rose a whopping 70% from the numbers reported in 2020.

Some of the red flags consumers might see indicating that their identity has been compromised include:

  • Being billed for items they don’t recall ever purchasing
  • Seeing unrecognized charges on their bank, credit card or other financial statements
  • No longer receiving certain household bills in the mail, which could indicate that a criminal has changed the billing address
  • Being denied access to credit — or being given credit with higher-than-expected interest rates — even when they thought they had a high credit score
  • Receiving notice that a tax return has been rejected

8 ways to protect yourself

Fortunately, by following a handful of tried-and-true methods, consumers can greatly reduce the chances that a cybercriminal will successfully steal their identity, funds, sensitive information or assets. To step up your security, consider taking these eight steps to better protect yourself:

  1. Employ safe online habits — By vigilantly maintaining a handful of cybersecurity-focused habits and always being mindful of the fact that cybercriminals could be lurking online, consumers can go a long way toward keeping their personal and financial information safe.
    While a much more in-depth explanation of some of the leading ways consumers can boost their cybersecurity can be found in this Arthur State Bank blog article, a quick rundown includes:
    – Keeping devices and software up to date
    – Using strong passwords
    – Being wary of phishing attempts
    – Limiting the public sharing of personal information online
    – Securing internet connections
    – Confirming site security when shopping online
    – Protecting debit and credit card numbers
    – Enabling multi-factor authentication when available
    – Setting up alerts for financial accounts
  1. Check your credit report regularly — Credit reports offer consumers a chance to review the loan and payment history on any financial accounts in their name — and present a great opportunity to keep an eye out for any unrecognized accounts and activities.
    Further, each of the United States’ three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are required by law to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report annually. To get a copy, consumers can visit com and fill out an online request form.
  1. Keep a close eye on your financial accounts — Especially with quick access to most financial accounts available via the internet, it has never been easier for consumers to monitor the activities on their accounts — and to flag/dispute any that they may not recognize. Otherwise, consumers can stay on the lookout for fraudulent charges and other suspicious activities on their accounts by carefully reviewing their financial statements (paper or digital) when they arrive.
  1. Leverage a credit or identity monitoring service — A number of financial organizations and companies offer free credit monitoring for consumers who choose to sign up for the service, while others provide identity monitoring at a low cost — and choosing either is another great way to keep an eye out for fraud attempts. Two of the leading free options here are Experian and Capital One’s CreditWise, while top paid services include IdentityForce, Identity Guard and PrivacyGuard.
  1. Use a password manager — Of course, passwords that are harder for users to remember are also harder for cybercriminals to hack. And when consumers use unique passwords for each of their online accounts, this practice can help prevent additional accounts from being compromised when one account’s password is hacked or leaked.
    A password manager can deliver big help in both of these areas. It does so by enabling consumers to use long and complicated passwords that are harder for fraudsters to crack, as well as by making it easier for users to employ a different password for each of their accounts. And it accomplishes each while eliminating the need for the consumer to remember all of the strong passwords.
  1. Don’t give out personal information over the phone (or via email or text) — Legitimate financial organizations never call, email or text consumers directly requesting personal information such as their passwords, PINs or Social Security numbers. So consumers should be very skeptical if they ever receive such a request, and they should always refrain from providing such details in response to a call, email or text.
    If a phone call does seem to be legitimate, consumers can request the caller’s credentials, end the conversation, and contact the organization directly using an official phone number found on the organization’s website or billing statements. For emails and texts that seem legitimate, consumers should skip the reply and reach out to the organization directly using verified contact information.
  1. Safeguard personal documents, and shred old ones — Any documentation containing a consumer’s personal information — and especially information about financial accounts and/or containing personal details such as a Social Security number — can prove extremely useful to identity thieves. To keep such documents from falling into the wrong hands, consumers can place a hold on their mail delivery when away from home for extended periods of time, or have a trusted neighbor collect mail from their mailbox while away. And old financial statements, credit cards, etc. should be shredded or otherwise rendered unreadable before being discarded.
  1. Consider a security freeze — Especially for consumers who discover that their ID has already been compromised, this step may be worth considering. By placing a security freeze on their credit reports, consumers can prevent their credit report from being viewed — effectively making it impossible for any new credit accounts to be opened in their name. And when a freeze that’s in place needs to be lifted to open a legitimate credit account, consumers can do this by contacting the credit bureaus and providing a password or PIN that was given when the initial freeze was placed.

Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.