Identity theft is when a thief uses your stolen personal information, such as a social security number or bank account and opens accounts or initiates fraudulent transactions in your name.
If fraudulent transactions occur on your account, contact the Bank immediately. While potentially damaging and certainly frightening, a fraudulent activity does not automatically mean your identity was stolen. It may be an isolated incident of theft that can be quickly resolved.
Identity Theft is a serious crime in today’s ever-increasing digital world. It can cause significant financial loss and damage your credit, which can take time, money and an enormous amount of patience to resolve. In order to protect yourself from Identity Theft, here are just a few ways in which thieves might try to obtain your identity:
- Searching your trash: This is called “dumpster diving” – a term used to describe people who rummage through your trash to find un-shredded information like credit card offers, old bills and bank statements.
- Intercepting your mail: Thieves can complete change of address forms and receive mail that’s intended for you.
- Stealing your wallet or purse: Your wallet or purse can contain a wealth of information about you, including account numbers, address, date of birth, etc., and make it easy to open accounts in your name.
- Accessing your employer’s files: Your place of work stores a lot of your personal and business information and can be targeted by identity thieves. Talk to your company’s security officer to learn how your information is protected.
- Getting information directly from you: As discussed above, thieves may pose as telemarketers, send emails or create websites and pose as someone who might have a legitimate reason to ask you for your personal information.
Signs of Identity Theft
Identity Theft is dangerous because it can remain hidden for a relatively long time before it’s identified. Here are some signs to help you identity if you’ve been a target of Identity Theft:
- Missing mail: A telling sign of identity theft is if you are missing mail or see a significant drop in the amount of mail you receive
- Suspicious transactions: Monitor your accounts, statements and credit reports and look for unusual transactions. Online and Mobile Banking are a great way to monitor your accounts
- Unexpected declines: Be alert to any unexpected declines for a loan or mortgage, despite your good credit. A safe practice is to get a copy of your credit report to review every six months
- Strange collection calls: Calls from a collection agency you don’t recognize are another sign that someone has stolen your identity
- New credit cards: Receiving a credit card that you haven’t applied for in the mail could be a sign that someone has attempted to steal your identity
How to protect yourself from Identity Theft
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service
Many legitimate companies provide this service and can alert you to changes in your credit report, tell you when new accounts have been opened, or alert you to unusual activity on various accounts.
- Sign the back of your credit and debit cards
Or place SEE ID on the signature line. This minimizes the possibility of someone else using your card.
- Keep your credit card receipts
Don’t throw your receipts away until you have double checked your bank and card statements and identify any suspicious activity.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately
If you lose your credit or debit card, or if they’re stolen, don’t waste any time in reporting it to the issuing company.
- Cancel and destroy all unused or expired cards
Call the bank to cancel the cards and destroy the cards before throwing them away. When you destroy the cards make sure the numbers are no longer recognizable.
- Leave out personal information on your checks
Don’t include your driver’s license number, telephone or social security numbers on your checks.
- Promptly collect incoming mail
Your incoming mail has lots of clues to your personal information. Make sure you collect it promptly.
- Shred your junk mail
Make sure you shred all your junk mail before you throw it away, especially credit card offers which could contain confidential information.
- Don’t drop your outgoing mail in your mailbox
It is safer to drop your outgoing mail in an official Postal Service collection box than leaving it in your mailbox.
- Review your credit reports regularly
Make sure they’re error-free. There are three (3) credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) whose reports can show different information. It’s best to review them all at least once every six (6) months or once a year. The law now gives you the right to view your credit report from each of the three agencies one time per year for free. Click here for more information: AnnualCreditReport.com
- Don’t give out your personal information to unsolicited requests
Unsolicited email , pop-up websites or web pages asking for personal information (phishing) can be scams. If it looks suspicious, call the company to check them out first.
- Keep your personal information in a safe place
Don’t store a list of credit card numbers, PIN numbers or passwords in your wallet or on your computer. Memorize the confidential information, and keep a copy of this information on paper in a secured location.