Identity theft (The use of personal information such as your name, address, SSN, account numbers, or passwords) to commit crimes such as fraud. Often, identity theft involves the unauthorized accessing and use of your finances and credit and it can have serious and long-lasting impacts on your reputation and financial health. As one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, identity theft is a threat you need to take seriously. Protecting your identity is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your financial health. In order to do so effectively, you need to understand some of the techniques thieves will use to access your personal information.
The NUMBER ONE way to protect yourself against identity theft is to be suspicious of any communications that ask for your personal information. Always verify that the source is trusted and the communication is valid before proceeding. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about protecting your personal identity or about any suspicious communications you receive.
Phishing is an email scam that mimics the appearance of a trusted business, such as your bank or credit card company. By posing as this organization, the email will attempt to trick you into providing personal information or “verify” account information.
Phishing emails often include any or all of the following elements:
- A request for personal information or account verification
- Request to click on a link or call a phone number to update your account or win a prize
- A threat of serious consequences if you do not reply (e.g. Account closure)
- Never provide personal information over email
- Never click on any links in the email.
- Do not call any phone number in the email.
- Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date
- Never use your email to send or receive sensitive personal information.
Malware, which is short for malicious software, can enter your computer and steal your personal information. With increasingly sophisticated programs being developed every day, you must take steps to protect yourself against them.
- Maintain updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer.
- Run a system scan of your computer every week.
- Keep your computer’s operating system up to date.
- Install and maintain a personal firewall on your computer.
- Use complex passwords that include at least 8 characters and random numbers.
- Change your passwords every six months.
- Only download material from trusted websites.
- Watch for anything out of the ordinary on your computer (e.g. unfamiliar icons, error messages, and a slow computer.
- Avoid completing sensitive transactions on public computers.
Vishing is a telephone scam in which the caller claims to be from a trusted institution, such as your bank, and requests personal information from you.
- Always be skeptical of information requests that occur over the phone.
- If you are suspicious of a call, hang up and call the institution using a known phone number.
- Do not return a call from a suspicious number, voicemail, or email.
- Never provide personal information over the phone until you are sure of their identity.
Payment fraud occurs anytime someone uses your financial information to make unauthorized purchases or to commit fraud.
- Keep all personal financial items (e.g. credit cards) in a secure location.
- Do not write your PIN number on your cards or checks or keep in your wallet.
- Only complete online purchases from trusted websites.
- Choose online bill pay instead of mailing checks.
- Shred any documents containing personal information.
- Do not leave mail with payments in your mailbox.
- Report any lost or stolen financial items promptly.
- You can call us here: (800) 383-8000
- Keep an eye on all your account statements in order to identify any fraudulent charges.
- Report any suspicious charges to us immediately.
- Do not place your garbage outside until the day of pickup.
- Only place outgoing mail in a secured mailbox.
- Use a locking mailbox.
- Pick up your mail as soon as it is delivered.
- Store any important financial information in a secure place in your home.
What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
Here are the steps to follow if you believe your identity has been stolen:
- Call us immediately at (800) 383-8000.
- Close any accounts that have been accessed fraudulently.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Contact Information for the Major Credit Bureaus:
- Review your credit report for suspicious activity.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
- Contact your local police.