What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a Federal Crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money as well as destroying your credit and ruin you good name.
How does Identity Theft occur?
- Loss or theft of your wallet, purse, debit card, ATM card or credit card.
- Mail Theft.
- Dumpster diving through the trash.
- Shoulder surfing – looking over your shoulder when you are entering a PIN or Password.
- Scam phone calls where a stranger asks for personal or financial information.
- Providing personal or financial information online to an unverified source.
- Phishing and spyware.
- Computer hacking.
Warning signs that your Identity has been compromised:
- Bills do not arrive as expected.
- Unauthorized charges appear on your checking account or credit card statement.
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements.
- Your checks are refused by merchants.
- Accounts appear on your credit report that you did not open.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Calls from collection agencies.
What steps can be taken to reduce the risk of Identity Theft?
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your social security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer.
- Use the most current operating system and Web browser for the most secure connection.
- Use secure sites when shopping and banking online. Look for an “s” following the http portion of the internet address (https ://) in your navigation bar. Also, look for an image of a padlock in the lower right-hand corner or your internet browser.
- Create strong passwords that are at least 10-12 characters long and include a combination of lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
- Keep your information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your home.
- Do not keep PIN’s attached to credit, debit or ATM cards.
- Consider using our free and secure bill-payment system through our online banking.
- If you are a member of the military forces, consider placing an active duty alert on your credit report. The active duty alert can prevent pre-screened offers of credit and insurance being sent while you are away on active duty.
- Inspect your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including accounts that you have and your bill pay history. The law requires the major nationwide consumer companies to give you a free report each year if you ask for it. To order your free annual credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228. You may also write: Annual Credit Report Request Service PO Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
What to do if you become a victim?
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon knowledge of the theft.
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts.
You may place a Fraud Alert with any of the following Bureaus’ Fraud Division:
PO Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374
PO Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your permission. Follow-up in writing with copies of the supporting documents. Keep copies for your records.
- Report the theft to your local police department and State Attorney General’s Office.
- File a complaint about the theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can do so online, by phone or mail.
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580
To get further information about where else to report specific types of fraud go to www.stopfraud.gov