Educational Articles

Are You the One and Only You? Guarding Against Identity Theft

There’s no way to completely eliminate any risk of someone fraudulently obtaining and using your personal information, but you can greatly reduce the risk by exercising a little caution. Here are some suggestions from the Federal Trade Commission and the Identity Theft Resource Center on how to protect yourself:
  • DO NOT put your Social Security number or your driver’s license on your checks.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office.
  • If you have a laptop computer, avoid storing financial information on it. If you do, use a strong password – a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password. And always log off when you’re finished.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information using a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. For more information visit http://oig.nasa.gov/identity.html.

Is someone “phishing” for your personal information?

Phishing is a type of identity theft that occurs online when scam artists steal personal information from consumers by creating fraudulent website pages. Phishers send emails that appear to come from companies you may do business with such as financial institutions or credit card companies or from the federal government or another regulatory agency.

These emails typically warn that you need to update your information or request that you take immediate action regarding one of your accounts. When you click on the link or icon they provided in the email, you are directed to a phony webpage that looks very similar to the actual site for that institution, often incorporating identical logos and hyperlinks. Or you are directed to the real website and a pop-up window quickly appears in front of the home page. This window is created by the scam artists.

The webpage or pop-up window directs you to type in personal information, such as your account number, password or Social Security number. If you provide this information, it goes directly to the crooks—not to the company with whom you transact business. Then they are able to access your accounts.

Don’t be a victim:
  1. Never respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. Financial institutions and credit card companies will NOT ask you to verify this information by phone or online.
  2. Contact the company yourself if the message appears to be from a company you deal with. Close the email and log on to your account directly or call using contact information that you know to be accurate. Do not use the information provided in the email.
  3.  Review all financial statements closely to ensure all transactions displayed were actually made by you.
  4.  Request your credit report from the three credit bureaus at least once a year and review the accounts and payment histories closely.

NOTE: The same tips apply to “vishing” which is when the scam artists use the phone and speak to you or leave a number to call. Either way, if they ask for your Social Security number, account number, password, or PIN, it’s a SCAM!


What to do if you’re a victim

If you think you’ve been a victim of an Identity Theft or fraud scam, here are the steps you should take:

1. Contact your financial institution and let them know that your account information may have been compromised.

2. Contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit file. This will prevent the thieves from opening new accounts in your name.

Major Credit Bureaus:
Equifax (800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian (888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion (800) 680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

3. Report all fraud activity to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or call (877) IDTHEFT.

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