Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information for their own use, typically without your knowledge. Personal information that is most often used is name, social security number, credit card number and other financial account information. It is important to be educated about the risks of identity theft and what steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
Thieves have many ways to obtain your identifying information. These include but are not limited to:
- Dumpster Diving: This is when someone rummages through your discarded trash in hopes of finding your mail and other paperwork that may include personal information.
- Skimming: Thieves have created special devices that work directly with merchant systems that allow them to copy your card information as it passes through the terminal. These are most commonly found on gas pumps but most certainly not limited to this.
- Phishing: The attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity through the internet or emails.
- Malware: Any software or computer program that is designed to intentionally damage or disable computers or computer systems. Malware examples are computer viruses, trojan horses, and spyware.
- Romance Scams: Scammers post profiles on dating websites, social accounts, classified sites and even forums to groom new victims. Scammers lure their victims to more private means of communication, (such as providing an e-mail address). They often con their victims into giving up their banking login information so they can receive a money transfer. They then quickly take over your account.
- Don’t Share your information: Never give out personal information over the phone, by mail, or email unless you initiated the contact.
- Monitor your account regularly: There are things you can do to remain vigilant and protect yourself from the odds of becoming a victim of fraud. Awareness and frequent monitoring may also prevent fraud from going undetected for an extended period of time.
- Do your research: You should never purchase from a company that you are not familiar with. Do online searches to confirm the validity of a company before agreeing to any financial arrangements with them. A great place to start is the Better Business Bureau. Avoid purchasing from Pop up internet ads or emails. Do not respond to any pop ups that want money to fix your computer because a virus was detected.
- Read Terms and Conditions for online purchases: Be very careful about signing up for free trials. Companies do not normally just give away merchandise for free unless you agree to some other service with them. Typically it is numerous pages of technical terms that can sometimes be hard to understand. Many companies don’t advertise the full detail of the purchase. When clicking the agreement acceptance box or by completing the payment , you are then legally bound to the terms of service.
Sign up for free scam alerts: You can get the most recent tips and advice sent directly to your inbox by signing up at ftc.gov/scams. It is important to know what scams or trending.
- Report suspicious activity: If you notice suspicious activity on your statement, report it to your financial institution immediately. Many times we can quickly help you determine whether it is a valid transaction or not.
Review your credit report: The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the nationwide credit reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you request it. The three nationwide credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have set up a central mailing address, and toll free number to request your free credit report.Annual Credit Report Request ServiceP.O. Box 105281Atlanta, GA 303481-877-322-8228