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What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person’s personal identifying information. Often, identity thieves will use another person’s personal information, such as a social security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, or account number to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write checks, open bank accounts, or obtain new loans. They may obtain this information by:
- Stealing wallets that contain personal identification information and credit cards
- Stealing bank statements from the mail
- Diverting mail from its intended recipients by submitting a change of address form
- Rummaging through trash for personal data
- Stealing personal identification information from workplace records
- Intercepting or otherwise obtaining information transmitted electronically
- Posing as a legitimate business representative via e-mail or phone to trick people into giving out information (see below for more information)
Phishing, also called "carding" or "web-spoofing" is a high-tech scam that uses spam (unsolicited e-mail that goes out to thousands of e-mail addresses) to deceive people into giving out their credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords and other sensitive information. The e-mail messages look like they come from businesses that the potential victims deal with for example, their Internet service provider (ISP), bill pay service or bank. The fraudsters tell recipients that they need to "update" or "validate" their billing information to keep their accounts active, and direct them to a "look-alike" website of the legitimate business, further tricking people into thinking they are responding to a genuine request. Unknowingly, people submit their financial information - not to the businesses - but the scammers, who use it to order goods and services and obtain credit.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Here are some basic steps recommended by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Keep Personal and Financial Information Secure
- Establish and protect passwords/PINs for 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 social security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
- 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.
- Never give out personal or financial information over the phone, through the mail, by e-mail or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact. Remember a legitimate company would never ask you for your account number or PIN/security code - they assigned them and therefore already have this information. Before you divulge any personal or financial 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 phone book.
- Guard your mail and trash from theft. Deposit mail in post office collection boxes or at the post office instead of an unsecured mailbox. Remove mail from your mailbox promptly. If you will be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service 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 (e.g., 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 in 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 out only when absolutely necessary. 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? Can you use another number such as my driver's license number instead? What will happen if I don’t give it to you? Getting satisfactory answers to your questions will help you to decide whether you want to share your SSN with the business.
- Limit the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you carry to what you'll actually need. Do not carry your social security card with you.
- Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.
Protect Your Computer Data:
- Access account information from https://www.bankofmagnolia.com
- If you get an e-mail that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account of yours will be closed unless you confirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the e-mail message. Instead, contact the company cited in the message using a telephone number you know to be genuine.
- Update your virus protection software on your computer 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 Web site.
- Clear your temporary Internet files or cache after you log out of your Bank of Magnolia online banking account especially if you accessed it from a public computer (where others will use the computer after you).
- 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.
- 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 log-in feature that saves your user name and password; and always log off when you're finished. If your computer 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 web site privacy policies. They should answer questions about the access to and accuracy, security of 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.
For more information visit FTC and click on consumer protection or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Consumers can file identity theft by calling 1-877-ID THEFT (1-877-438-4338). All above information was provided by the Federal Trade Commission and Bankers online.