Protecting Your Identity

With impressive stealth and steed, a thief can compromise your identity and inflict irreparable damage within just a short period of time.  It can happen literally before you even get your next monthly credit card or checking account statement.  First & Farmers National Bank wants you to be educated and aware of this type of invasion of your financial privacy.  Most importantly, we want you to know how to prevent it from happening to you!

              What is Identity Theft?

There are many different types of identity theft, and the list just keeps growing.  Financial Identity Theft occurs when an impostor obtains someone’s personal identifying information (PII) and uses it for financial gain; such as obtaining lines of credit, credit cards, financial institution account takeover or enlistment, or even signing up for utilities.

Criminal Identity Theft occurs when a thief uses someone’s PII to elude law enforcement, even fulfilling child support obligations.  Often times, the criminal identity thief is using someone’s identity to obtain employment or credit because their own past would prohibit them passing background checks. Sometimes identity thieves will use another person’s identity to obtain medical services or goods, and even more, they may use it to make claims for medical services.  Medical Identity Theft can result in false medical records or enormous claims being added to another person’s existing medical charts.

Governmental Identity Theft occurs when a thief uses someone else’s PII to obtain employment, governmental benefits, or even tax refunds.  Usually, the victim learns of this when a tax return is held by the state, or when wages are levied by the court or government.  Another form of identity theft is Corporate Identity Theft.  This is when someone manipulates a business’s identifying information in order to commit fraud or other crimes in the business’s name. 

            How does your information become compromised?

Banks are often faced with the problem of ATM Skimmers.  Individuals put skimming machines in the slot of ATM machines that read the card’s numbers electronically.  They often house a small camera that records the account holder’s hand movements while punching in their PIN numbers.  Your information is then either transferred to another card, or it is used online to purchase products or services.  Be observant!   If something looks or feels amiss, don’t use the machine. Use ATM machines of reputable banks and always go to ones that are in brightly lit areas.  If you see anything suspicious, immediately report it to the authorities. 

VISHING attacks happen when individuals receive telephone calls, either live or automated, to obtain personal identifying information.  Oftentimes, the caller uses a viable, respectable company’s name such as a bank or even a government agency like the IRS; and they ask for vital PII such as social security or account numbers.  They may even use fear tactics to lure you in; like that your identity has been compromised and you need to immediately contact them to verify your account number.  If something seems “fishy”, it most likely is.

PHISHING scams take place most usually through emails.  They will redirect you to a website that may look identical to the business or person they are trying to impersonate.  Most times, when you are re-directed, there will be a pop-up asking for account numbers, social security numbers, or other personal information.

Other tactics may include text message scams where you receive a text alarming you to such things as compromised credit or a blocked credit card.  They will usually ask for an individual to call a toll-free number and change PIN numbers or to verify your accounts.  Dumpster diving and stealing occur when purses or wallets are stolen, mailboxes are rummaged, bank and credit card statements are accessed, and pre-authorized credit card offers are accepted.  Boxes of checks can also be intercepted at the mailboxes.  Other online methods of obtaining PII can include:  Online Dating Scams, Social Media Identity Assumption, Automatic Delivery Options for Weight Loss Aides, and even Online Penny Auctions.  As technology advances, so do the efforts of identity thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Below is a listing of simple things you can do in order to avoid becoming a target of identity theft.

  • Keep your Social Security card and number in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe.  Never carry it in your wallet or purse.
  • Unless someone must have it to verify your identity, do not give it out.  What are they going to do with the information and are they trustworthy?
  • Store your laptop, tablets and smart phones in a secure place.  Change your passwords often and never store your passwords on websites.  Keep virus and malware protection up to date.
  • Be cautious of posting to social networking sites.  Do not post daily “updates” and give “locations” when you are out of town. 
  • Never loan a credit or debit card, as well as any correlating PIN numbers.  Do not ever write a PIN number on the card or keep it stored with the card.
  • Scrutinize your monthly statements.  Go over any and all statements as soon as you receive them.
  • Empty your mailbox daily.  If you are on vacation, have your mail held at the post office.  Do not put mail with checks or bills in the mailbox to await pickup.  Open every single piece of mail that comes in your name.  This way, you will know if anyone has an account opened using your name or account numbers.  Shred credit card offers and anything that you no longer need that has PII.
  • When ordering online, ensure that the site offers payment through a secured site.  Do not ever give credit card or PII over an unsecure site.
  • If anyone calls or texts you and asks you to share personal identifying information, do not give it out to them.  If they are pretending to be a trusted business or person, hang up and call the number listed in the phone book; not the one on your caller ID.
  • Do not ever put your social security number on checks.
  • Do not use predictable passwords.  Even though a security question asks you for your mother’s name, you may answer with another word that no one else will know.
  • Request a credit report from the three major credit companies annually.
  • Keep your children’s social security number and personal identifying information in safe locations as well.

Remember that a bank already has your account number on file.  Banks will not randomly call you and ask you to enter any account information into a system or ask you to give that information out.  If anyone asks you to give them your account number, DON’T!

What do you do if you find your identity has been compromised?

If someone has stolen your wallet, immediately call your local authorities.  Then, contact your credit card companies to report the cards as lost or stolen.  Alert your bank that your cards and checks have been stolen.  Your bank will put stop payments on the checks that have been stolen, and also list your debit card as stolen or lost.  You may also need to contact your Department of Motor Vehicles to alert them that your Driver’s License was compromised.

If your social security number is being used, or you feel it has been compromised, contact your local Social Security Administration office.  Also, contact the three credit unions to place red flags on your accounts.  Ask them to alert you of any sudden changes in your credit scores.  Also, if you have any passwords set up for online banking or even mobile banking, immediately change those.  In most cases of restoring identity theft, you will be required to have a police report, so immediately contact the authorities if you see anything fishy going on with any of your accounts or credit reports.

To report identity theft, you will need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338.  Be diligent in copying any correspondence and keeping track of all losses you have incurred due to the identity theft. 

The costs and efforts involved in restoring your credit can be heartbreaking and very extensive.  Identity thieves can do a large amount of devastation to your credit in a short amount of time.  It can be a long, hard line to tow when trying to restore the upstanding credit you have worked and labored for so long to create.  Be aware, and guard your identity just like…well, your life.

Resources

Click on any of these links to find out more information on Identity Theft, or use them should you feel your Personal Identifying Information (PII) has been compromised:

Federal Trade Commission:  www.ftc.gov

Federal Trade Commission Complaint Center:  www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

Federal Trade Commission – Report ID Theft:  www.identitytheft.gov

United States Department of Justice:  www.justice.gov

Identity Theft Resource Center/Prevention & Survival:  www.idtheftcenter.org

Social Security Administration:  www.ssa.gov/pubs/idtheft.htm

FDIC:  Identity Theft:  www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/alerts/theft.html

Better Business Bureau:  www.bbbonline.org/                   

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