Prevent Identity Theft
- Only share personal information with sources you trust.
- Only carry the identification, credit and debit cards you need.
- Carefully examine all bank statements to verify charges.
- Shred receipts, checks, insurance forms and bank statements.
- Set up online delivery of your documents.
- If you're on vacation, have someone pick up your mail or request a hold.
- Order and review a copy of your credit report on an annual basis.
Use Social Media Wisely
Social media connects families and friends with colleagues and businesses through powerful online communities. However just as in real world communities you should be careful what you share and how you share it to stay safe online.
Use Privacy Controls
Privacy controls allow you to restrict who can see your profile and posts. Options change frequently and you should check and update your settings often.
Watch What You Post
When posting keep in mind that even a deleted post may have already been copied and the content may still be in the providers system even if it is no longer visible. You also shouldn't post information about significant dates that involve your family members i.e., birthdays, ages or even family member's names.
Don't Reveal Too Much
Personal information such as where you live, work or go to school could be used against you. Travel plans can give an indication that your home may be unoccupied. Identity thieves will read through your profile history which can paint a detailed picture of who you are.
Photos taken with newer cameras and Smartphones can include your location embedded in the image. This can indicate where you are even if you don't mention it in the post. The background of the photo may also give away information.
Social media has seen an increase in phishing as people migrate away from email. Beware of links from friends or business users whose accounts you have not verified. These links could infect your computer with malicious software and put your information and online activity at risk.
Using ATMs Safely
For your safety, when using an ATM:
- Be aware of people and your surroundings -- Protect your privacy when you use an ATM, be sure you shield the ATM keypad with your hand or body while entering your PIN. If the ATM appears to have been tampered with, you should look for a different one.
- Put away your card and cash -- After completing your transaction, secure your card and cash immediately, before exiting the ATM area. Count your cash later, in the safety of your locked car or home. Your ATM card is like cash, so keep it in a safe place.
- Skimming -- See if the card reader appears to be damaged or modified. If so, don't use it. Credit card thieves sometimes use a tactic called skimming where they alter the ATM machine to get a copy of your credit card information.
- In-Person -- Keep your card in sight when completing a purchase in-person.
- Prepare for your transactions at home (for instance, by filling out a deposit slip) to minimize your time at the ATM or night deposit facility.
- Mark each transaction in your account record, but not while at the ATM or night deposit facility. Always save your ATM receipts. Don't leave them at the ATM or night deposit facility because they may contain important account information.
- Compare your records with the account statements you receive.
- Don't lend your ATM card to anyone.
- Do not leave your card at the ATM or any documents at a night deposit.
- Protect the secrecy of your son Identification Number (PIN). Protect your ATM card as though it were cash. Don't tell anyone your PIN. Don't give anyone information regarding your ATM card or PIN over the telephone. Never enter your PIN in any ATM that does not look genuine, has been modified, or has a suspicious device attached, or is operating in a suspicious manner. Don't write your PIN where it can be discovered.
- Prevent others from seeing you enter your PIN by using your body to shield their view.
- If you lose your ATM card or if it is stolen, promptly notify us. You should consult the other disclosures you have received about electronic fund transfers for additional information about what to do if your card is lost or stolen.
- When you make a transaction, be aware of your surroundings. Look out for suspicious activity near the ATM or night deposit facility, particularly if it is after sunset. At night, be sure that the facility (including the parking area and walkways) is well lighted. Consider having someone accompany you when you use the facility, especially after sunset. If you observe any problem, go to another ATM or night deposit facility.
- Don't accept assistance from anyone you don't know when using an ATM or night deposit facility.
- If you notice anything suspicious or if any other problem arises after you have begun an ATM transaction, you may want to cancel the transaction, pocket your card and leave. You might consider using another ATM or coming back later.
- Don't display your cash; pocket it as soon as the ATM transaction is completed and count the cash later when you are in the safety of your own car, home, or other secure surrounding.
- At a drive-up facility, make sure all the car doors are locked and all of the windows are rolled up, except the driver's window. Keep the engine running and remain alert to your surroundings.
- We want the ATM and night deposit facility to be safe and convenient for you. Therefore, please tell us if you know of any problem with a facility. For instance, let us know if a light is not working or there is any damage to a facility. Please report any suspicious activity or crimes to both the operator of the facility and the local law enforcement officials immediately.
How Can I Tell if I'm a Victim of Identity Theft?
Monitor the balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Other indications of identity theft can be:
- Failing to receive bills or other mail signaling an address change by the identity thief;
- Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply;
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason; or
- Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you didn't buy.
Are There Any Other Steps I Can Take?
If an identity thief is opening new credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You can find out by ordering a copy of your credit report from any of three major credit bureaus. If you find inaccurate information, check your reports from the other two credit bureaus. Of course, some inaccuracies on your credit reports may be because of computer, clerical, or other errors and may not be a result of identity theft. (Note: If your personal information has been lost or stolen, you may want to check all of your reports more frequently for the first year. Federal law allows credit bureaus to charge you up to $9 for a copy of your credit report. Some states may allow a free report or reduced rates.)
Additional resources are available on the Stay Safe Online website.
How can I keep my personal information safe?
When it involves your personal information, exercise caution and prudence.
Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. When you're asked for your mother's maiden name on an application for a new account, try using a password instead.
Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.
Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that your records are kept in a secure location. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well.
What do I do if I've been a victim of identity theft?
Even if you've been very careful about keeping your personal information to yourself, an identity thief can strike. If you suspect that your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, take the following four steps right away. Remember to follow up all calls in writing; send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when; and keep copies for your files.
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports.
Call the toll-free fraud number of anyone of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge. Equifax: 800-525-6285, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742), P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- 1-800-680-7289, Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you receive your reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries you didn't initiate, accounts you didn't open, and unexplained debts on your true accounts. You also should check that information such as your SSN, address(es), name or initial, and employers are correct. Inaccuracies in this information also may be due to typographical errors. Nevertheless, whether the inaccuracies are due to fraud or error, you should notify the credit bureau as soon as possible by telephone and in writing.
You should continue to check your reports periodically, especially in the first year after you've discovered the theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. The automated "one-call" fraud alert process only works for the initial placement of your fraud alert. Orders for additional credit reports or renewals of your fraud alerts must be made separately at each of the three major credit bureaus.
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Credit accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other lenders, and phone companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers.
If you're closing existing accounts and opening new ones, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords.
If there are fraudulent charges or debits, ask the company about the following forms for disputing those transactions:
- For new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit
- If they don't, ask the representative to send you the company's fraud dispute forms.
- For your existing accounts, ask the representative to send you the company's fraud dispute forms.
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the card as soon as you can. Get a new card with a new PIN.
If your checks have been stolen or misused, close the account and ask your bank to notify the appropriate check verification service. While no federal law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, state laws may protect you.
Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from a forged check, but they also require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely way that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information.
You also should contact these major check verification companies. Ask that retailers who use their databases not accept your checks.
- TeleCheck: 800-710-9898 or 927-0188
- Certegy, Inc.: 800-437-5120
- International Check Services: 800-631-9656
- Call SCAN at 800-262-7771 to find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name.
File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Keep a copy of the report. You may need it to validate your claims to creditors. If you can't get a copy, at least get the report number.
File a complaint with the FTC.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC also can refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and companies for further action. The FTC enters the information you provide into our secure database.
Additional information is available at http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/alerts/theft.html Opens a New Window.
What can I do to stay safe online?
Your computer can be a goldmine of personal information to an identity thief. Here's how you can safeguard your computer and the personal information it stores:
- Update your virus protection software regularly. Computer viruses can have damaging effects, including introducing program code that causes your computer to send out files or other stored information. Look for security repairs and patches you can download from your operating system's website.
- Don't download files from strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don't know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program that could hijack your modem.
- Use a firewall, especially if you have a high-speed or "always on" connection to the internet. The firewall allows you to limit uninvited access to your computer. Without a firewall, hackers can take over your computer and access sensitive information.
- Use a secure browser--software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet--to guard the safety of your online transactions. When you're submitting information, look for the "lock" icon on the status bar. It's a symbol that your information is secure during transmission.
- Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do, use a "strong" password; that is, a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid using an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password; and always log off when you're finished. If your laptop gets stolen, the thief will have a hard time accessing sensitive information.
- Delete any personal information stored on your computer before you dispose of it. Use a "wipe" utility program, which overwrites the entire hard drive and makes the files unrecoverable.
- Read website privacy policies. They should answer questions about the access to and accuracy, security, and control of personal information the site collects, as well as how sensitive information will be used, and whether it will be provided to third parties.
A Special Word About Social Security Numbers
Very likely, your employer and financial institution will need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other private businesses may ask you for your SSN to do a credit check, such as when you apply for a car loan. Sometimes, however, they simply want your SSN for general record keeping. If someone asks for your SSN, ask the following questions:
- Why do you need it?
- How will it be used?
- How do you protect it from being stolen?
- What will happen if I don't give it to you?
If you don't provide your SSN, some businesses may not provide you with the service or benefit you want. Getting satisfactory answers to your questions will help you to decide whether you want to share your SSN with the business.
Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves can be skilled liars, and may pose as representatives of banks, internet service providers (ISPs), or even government agencies to get you to reveal identifying information. Before you divulge any personal information, confirm that you're dealing with a legitimate representative of a legitimate organization. Double check by calling customer service using the number on your account statement or in the telephone book.
Guard your mail and trash from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office instead of an unsecured mailbox. Remove mail from your mailbox promptly. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to ask for a vacation hold. To thwart a thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications or offers, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, and expired charge cards.
Before revealing any identifying information (for example, on an application), ask how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared with others. Find out if you have a say about the use of your information. For example, can you choose to have it kept confidential?
Keep your Social Security card in a secure place and give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
Limit the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you carry to what you'll actually need.
Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.