Fraud & Security News

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone. The crime of stealing one’s identity is on the rise and the repercussions are endless. Each year there are close to 9 million victims and that number is rising. Criminals use a variety of methods to obtain identifying information on their victims, including:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Driver’s Licenses
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • ATM Cards
  • Telephone Calling Cards
  • Victim’s Date of Birth

With any of this information, criminals can impersonate their victim and they will spend as much money as they can until they are caught and move on to their next target.

There are two types of identity theft to be aware of:

  • Account Takeover – where the thief takes over your existing credit accounts,
  • Applicant Fraud – where the crook uses the identifying information listed above to open new accounts in your name.

To reduce your risk, here are some steps to follow:

  • Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet. Should your wallet be stolen, report your loss to your financial institution immediately.
  • Be aware of dishonest employees at restaurants or stores. Some have small hand-held devices (skimmers) that can record your credit card information and can be used to purchase items over the phone, online or even create a counterfeit card.
  • Do not use your debit card for online shopping. You are better protected against fraud by using your credit card.
  • Never give our your Social Security Number, credit or debit card number or other personal information over the phone, mail or internet unless you have a trusted relationship with the company and you have initiated the call.
  • Keep a list or photocopy all of your cards, accounts and investments and their contact information. Keep this information in a secure place so you can quickly contact these companies in case of fraud.
  • Always take credit receipts with you. Never toss them in a public container. Put receipts in your wallet rather than a shopping bag.
  • Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks.
  • Watch the mail when you are to be issued a new credit/debit card. Contact the company if you do not receive the card in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Always shred new credit card applications before throwing them away.
  • Be aware of phishing scams requesting your personal account information. (See phishing article below.)
  • Do not keep passwords in your wallet and create pins that are not birthdates or a series of numbers.
  • Do not carry your social security card in your wallet.

Be Aware

Examine your accounts for suspicious activity. Some criminals make a mint charging less than $20 to a person's account, since many people will not question a charge that low. Also be aware if you do not receive bills as expected or if you receive bills/statements for credit cards that you do not own. Another red flag is if you receive phone calls from credit companies on purchases you have not made.

Take time to go over your statements and be sure to order your credit report to see if you have any fraudulent activity.

You are a Victim of Identity Fraud

Even if you have taken these precautions, you may still be vulnerable to identity theft. Should that happen, follow these steps:

  • Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit report. This will require creditors to follow a specific detailed procedure before opening new accounts in your name or making changes to existing accounts.
  • Call one of the three credit bureaus to place your 90-day alert:
    • Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian – 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289
  • Close any accounts that have shown fraudulent activity or have been opened fraudulently.
  • File a police report.
  • Contact the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 and report your experience.

For an informative brochure with additional information on identity theft please visit: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt01.pdf