About identity theft
Identity theft is a type of fraud where a thief uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number, to open accounts or initiate transactions using your name. This may cause financial loss or damaged credit. If fraudulent transactions occur on your account, it does not automatically mean your identity was stolen. It may be an isolated incident of theft that can be quickly resolved. Contact your bank for more information.
Common ways ID theft happens
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including:
- Dumpster diving. They rummage through your trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing your address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a “change of address’ form.
- “Old-fashioned” stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.
Signs of fraud or Identity Theft to look for
- Accounts on your credit reports that you didn’t open
- Incorrect personal information on your credit reports
- Credit inquiries from companies you’ve never contacted
- Inaccurate balances showing on your accounts in your credit reports
- Unauthorized withdrawal from your bank account
- Bills that you used to get are no longer being delivered to you
What is ‘phishing?’
- Phishing is usually a two-part scam involving email and spoof websites.
- Fraudsters, also known as phishers, send email to a wide audience that appears to come from a reputable company. This is known as a phish email.
- In the phish email are links to websites that spoof or imitate a reputable company’s websites.
- Fraudsters hope to convince victims to give up their personal information by using clever and compelling language, such as an urgent need for you to update your information immediately.
- Once obtained, personal information can be used to steal money, or transfer stolen money into a different account.
- Fraudsters obtain email addresses from many places on the web. They also purchase email lists and sometimes guess email addresses.
- Fraudsters generally have no idea if people they send phish emails to are actual bank customers or not. They hope a percentage of the phish emails they send will be received by customers.
- A new form of fraudulent emails, called vishing or voicemail phishing, involves emails that contain fraudulent telephone numbers instead of links. Recipients of vishing emails are instructed to call this number and disclose personal and account information. Remember: always communicate with your bank by using a number you know to be associated with it, like the number found on the back of your debit card.
Email & Phishing Security Tips
- Be wary of suspicious emails. Never open attachments, click on links, or respond to emails from suspicious or unknown senders.
- If you receive a suspicious email that you think is a phish email, do not respond or provide any information. Send the email to Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow any phish email reporting procedures established by your bank.
- If you respond to a phish email with personal information, contact your bank immediately.
What is ‘skimming’?
- Skimming is a form of financial fraud where criminals copy the magnetic stripe encoding from your credit card using a hand-held device called a skimmer, which resembles an ATM keyboard. Each skimmer can hold data from hundreds of different credit cards.
- Once your credit card has been swiped through the device, the thief has the information needed to make a counterfeit card.
- Thieves often sell the data to other people. The data can be downloaded into a computer and emailed anywhere around the world and is used to make counterfeit credit cards.
- Monitor your credit card statements carefully and report any unauthorized activity immediately.
- Fraudsters try to contact and defraud potential victims using various means. Once they contact potential victims, they use compelling language and scenarios to scam them.
- If you’re involved in a situation that matches one of the following descriptions, it could be a scam and you should contact your bank immediately:
- Job scams: You are paid or receive a commission to facilitate money transfers through your account or apply for a job that asks you to set up a new bank account.
- Dating scams: Someone you met through an online dating site or chat room asks you to send money for a variety of reasons including a need for urgent surgery or to make travel arrangements to meet in person.
- Lottery or sweepstakes scams: You receive notice that you are the winner of a lottery that you did not enter, but must pay a small percentage for alleged taxes or other fees before you can receive the rest of your prize.
- Internet scams: You receive a check for something you sold over the internet, but the amount of the check is more than the selling price. You are instructed to deposit the check, but send back the difference in cash. Other examples include you receiving a check from a business or individual different from the person buying your item or product, or you are instructed to transfer money, or receive a transfer of money, as soon as possible.