Identity theft...you've probably heard about it in the news. It may even have happened to someone you know. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and the Federal Trade Commission's top reported fraud complaint. Recent surveys reveal that there are currently 7-10 million victims per year. Identity theft occurs when a person (suspect) obtains the personal information of another person (victim) without authorization from the victim, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose.
Many individuals are victims of identity theft and don't know it. By the time most victims become aware that identity theft has occurred, the time and cost to repair the damage can be staggering. Y-12 Federal Credit Union is committed to educating you in ways to prevent identity theft, and what to do if it does happen to you. This link on our website will provide detailed information on how identity theft occurs, what you can do to prevent it, and what steps need to be taken in the event it does occur. We will also provide information on the latest reported fraudulent activities, such as "phishing", "pretexting", etc.
The Most Common Ways of Identity Theft
If someone wants to steal your identity, they only need minimal information
. The most important bits of information are your name, address, social security number, telephone number, mother's maiden name, and your place of employment. Identity thieves can obtain your personal information in a variety of ways.
Listed below are the most common ones:
- Theft of a wallet or purse.
- Vehicle break-ins.
- Mail theft, even in a post office.
- Completing a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
- Theft by dishonest employees with access to records or access to your home.
- Accessing your credit report fraudulently, for example, by posing as an employer, loan officer, or landlord.
- Dumpster diving - going through your trash can at home or through trash receptacles at a place of business. This is a very popular activity at large retail malls.
- Shoulder surfing - stealing account or pin numbers by watching over someone's shoulder at an ATM or a checkout counter.
- Spoofing - use of a replica of a legitimate, existing website to fool users into submitting personal, financial, or password data.
- Spamming - Sending unsolicited e-mail to mailing lists, multiple individuals, or groups. The e-mails may include false advertisements, viruses, or hoaxes.
- Phishing - a batch of fake e-mails may be sent that purport to be from a person's financial institution or another familiar vendor. The e-mails tells you that there is some sort of problem that requires them to ``confirm'' or ``verify'' your online password, credit card number, or other personal data at a web site. While that site looks like a real bank site, it's really just a facade where the crook collects all the data needed to drain your bank account, use your credit card, or otherwise steal your identity.
- Obtaining identifying information on the Internet at public records sites and/or fee-based information broker sites.
- Attaching "spy ware" or viruses to your home computer in order to transmit personal data.
- Skimming - Stealing credit and debit card numbers as your card is processed by using a special information storage device.
- Pretexting - mail or telephone request for financial information. The caller may claim to be a representative from an employer, a landlord, or from a financial institution.
- Other forms of social engineering - a phone call with the caller claiming to be conducting a survey, or a call informing you that you have won the "Grand Prize" in a contest, which, of course, you do not remember entering.
Certain "goldmine" sources of information are a Social Security card, birth certificate, medical cards, passport, pistol permit, or a student ID with the Social Security number.
You should avoid carrying these sources of information in your wallet or purse. Identity thieves are very creative. It is extremely important to safeguard your personal and financial information at all times.
Here are some tips to help protect you from identity thieves:
- Review your credit report once a year through one of the major credit reporting agencies:
- Do not carry important documents like your Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport in your purse or wallet unless necessary.
- Shred all personal or financial information before throwing it in the garbage.
- Do not put your Social Security Number on checks or use it as your driver's license number.
- Don't leave outgoing mail in your mailbox.
- If your mailbox doesn't lock, consider investing in one that does, or rent a post office box. At the very least, become familiar with the billing/statement cycles of your bills, accounts, etc.
- When possible, opt to receive bills and statements electronically.
- Don't give personal information to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call and are familiar with the company and its practices.
- When shopping online with a trusted company, make sure the page where you provide your credit card is located on a secure server (look for the lock icon in the lower right-hand corner of your screen).
- When shopping, carry just the credit cards, cash, and checkbooks you need.
- Try to keep your credit card in sight at all times when presenting it for payment while shopping. If you dine at a restaurant where you pay at the table, you may want to pay with cash rather than a credit card.
- If you don't use a credit card very often, consider canceling your account since you may not notice if it's missing.
- Carefully review monthly credit card statements for unauthorized purchases.
Steps to take if your identity has been stolen
- Contact creditors of any accounts that have been tampered with. You may need to close those accounts and reopen new ones. If there are unauthorized transactions, fill out a dispute form.
- Keep a list of the companies you contact. Make notes on the company name, date you contacted them, the name of the person you spoke to and any comments that are made, including financial institutions and law enforcement agencies.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Request a Fraud Alert be placed in your file. You should also order a copy of your credit report.
- If checks have been stolen and/or used fraudulently, close the account and notify any check verification companies. You may be held responsible if you fail to notify your financial institution in a timely manner.
- Contact your local police or sheriff's department to report the crime and obtain a police report. If you are told identity theft isn't a crime in your state, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission and complete an I.D. Theft Affidavit.