What is Identity Theft? Identity theft occurs when a person's identity is stolen for the purpose of opening credit accounts, stealing money from existing accounts, applying for loans, even renting apartments or committing crimes. Victims of identity theft often aren't aware that they've been targeted, until they find unknown charges on their bank or credit card statements, are called by a collections agency or are denied credit. There are up to 10 million identity theft victims per year.
What to do if you've become a victim of identity theft:
- Report the theft to the three major credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion Corporation and do the following:
- Request that they place a fraud alert and a victim's statement in your file.
- Request a FREE copy of your credit report to check whether any accounts were opened without your permission.
- Request that the agencies remove inquiries and/or fraudulent accounts stemming from the theft.
- Notify your bank(s) and ask them to flag your account, contact you regarding any unusual activity and take the following actions in the event of such activity:
- If checks were stolen, place stop payments on them.
- If bank accounts were set up without your consent, close them.
- If your ATM card was stolen, issue a new card, account number and PIN.
- Notify the issuers of the credit cards you carry. If unauthorized charges appear on your legitimate credit cards or if unauthorized cards have been issued in your name:
- Request replacement cards with new account numbers.
- Monitor credit card bills for new fraudulent activity. If found, report it immediately to the credit card issuers and credit reporting agencies.
- Check with any online accounts, merchants or payment services that you use for any fraudulent activity against your account.
- Contact your local police department to file a criminal report.
- Contact the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline to report the unauthorized use of your personal identification information.
- Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of your identify theft. Check to see whether an unauthorized license number has been issued in your name.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Ask for a free copy of ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen In Your Good Name, a guide that will help you recover from your theft and guard against future thefts.
- Document the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to regarding the incident. Follow up your phone calls with letters, and keep copies of all conversations.
Additional ways to Protect Your Identity
- Check your credit report regularly.
- Shred your confidential mail.
- Keep account numbers, Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), credit and bank cards and checks in a secure location.
- Don't select a PIN that has personal significance, such as a birthday or address.
- Memorize your PIN and do not share your account numbers or PINs with friends or family.
- Always take your receipts with you from the ATM or store.
- Never give your confidential information to callers claiming they are from your financial institution or to people unknown to you. Happy State Bank will NEVER initiate a call to ask you for personal or financial information. However, if you call us, we will ask for account verification so we can positively identify you.
- Do not trust Caller ID. With today's technology, it is easy for thieves to fake Caller ID and make it look like the call is from a trusted source.
- Never click on a link to a website from within an email, even if it appears to be from your financial institution. Rather, always go directly to the website and logon.
Choose a Secure Password
- Do NOT use words or phrases that have personal significance.
- Mix letters, numbers and symbols and use specific case sensitivity. When using alpha-numeric combinations along with case sensiitivity, it's almost impossible to "crack" a password.
- A good way to do this is to use an acronym of a sentence or phrase that you will remember. (i.e. "I drive a black Toyota Tacoma" gives "IdabTT")
- Try to memorize the password and avoid writing it down to prevent someone from finding it.
- The longer the password, the more secure it is. Make the password longer than six or eight characters. Less characters are easier for "brute-force" programs used by hackers to calculate.
- Don't use the same password for all of your secure access accounts. If someone obtains this password, they would gain access to all of your accounts. At minimum, have a unique password for your most secure accounts (ie: online banking) and a different password for all other accounts that are less sensitive (ie: email, AIM, etc...)
- Keep your password a secret. Do not tell anyone your password and do not give it out for any reason. If you are having problems when working with a legitimate company's tech support to resolve the problems, rather than asking your for your password, they will simply reset it to a new password, then after the problem is resolved, you can change.
- For more tips on preventing e-mail fraud and identity theft, see these updated reports from the Federal Trade Commission: "How Not to Get Hooked by the 'Phishing Scam'", "ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name".
- See this report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: "You Can Fight Identity Theft".