Protecting Your Identity
There is no way to completely eliminate any risk of someone fraudulently obtaining and using your personal information, but you can reduce the risk by exercising caution. Here are some suggestions from the Federal Trade Commission and the Identity Theft Resource Center on how to protect yourself:
- Don’t put your Social Security number or your driver’s license number on your checks.
- Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
- If you have a laptop computer, avoid storing financial information on it. If you do, use a strong password – a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password so that you don’t have to enter them each time you log in or enter a site. And always log off when you’re finished. That way, if your laptop gets stolen, it’s harder for the thief to obtain your personal information.
Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands may not be enough, because the files may stay on the computer’s hard drive, where they may be easily retrieved. Use a 'wipe' utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. It makes the files unrecoverable.
What is phishing?
Phishing is a means of identity theft that occurs online. Scam artists steal personal information from consumers by creating fraudulent Internet pages. The damage inflicted can hurt your reputation and your credit rating for years to come.
How phishing occurs
Thieves send emails that appear to come from reputable sources, such as financial institutions or credit card companies. Some emails appear to come from the federal government or another regulatory agency.
These emails typically warn that you need to update your information or request that you take immediate action regarding one of your accounts. They tell you to click on an icon or link to be directed to the institution’s website.
Here is where the scam comes in. When you click on the link or icon, you are directed to a phony webpage that looks very similar to the actual site for that institution, often incorporating identical logos and hyperlinks. Or you are directed to the real website and a pop-up window quickly appears in front of the home page. This window is created by the scam artists.The webpage or pop-up window directs you to type in personal information, such as your account number, password or Social Security number. If you provide this information, it goes directly to the crooks—not to the company with whom you transact business. Then they are able to access your accounts.
Don’t be the catch of the day
Here are a few tips to avoid becoming a victim of phishing:
- Never respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. Financial institutions and credit card companies will not ask you to verify this information by phone or online.
- Contact the company yourself if the message appears to be from a company you deal with. Close the email and log on to your account directly or call using contact information that you know to be accurate. Do not use the information provided in the email.
- Review all financial statements closely to ensure all transactions displayed were actually made by you.
- Request your credit report from the three credit bureaus at least once a year and review the accounts and payment histories closely.
What to do if you’re a victim
If you think you’ve been a victim of a phishing scam, here are the steps you should take:
- Contact your financial institution and let them know that your account information may have been compromised.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit file. This will prevent Internet thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
- Report all phishing activity to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheftOpens in New Window or call (877) IDTHEFT.
The three major credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
Vishing: A New Take on an Old Scam
Vishing is a phone scam and come in two varieties:
The first is conducted solely by phone. A consumer is called, usually by an automated dialer, and told that the privacy of their credit card account or some other account has been compromised. The consumer is then told to call a certain number immediately to "verify information” related to the account. Sometimes threats of financial loss, fees or other penalties are made to pressure the victim.
The second type of vishing is just like the first, except that the intended victim gets an email, not a call. The message is like that of a phishing email, but instead of clicking on a link the person is asked to make a call.
Either way, when the consumer calls the number, an automated system asks for things like account number, password, birth date, and Social Security number. As the unsuspecting consumer enters the numbers, the keystrokes are recorded.
Be wary of any call you get in which you’re told to call a certain number to provide personal information. In addition:
- Be especially skeptical of calls from automated systems or ones where the speaker does not address you by name.
- If you suspect someone is vishing, hang up immediately. (If the caller is a live person, just say you’ll call back later.) Then call back at a number you know to be legitimate, such as a number on your statement or the back of your credit card.
- Never give out personal information by phone unless you initiated the call and are sure you used the right number.
- Delete any email that provides a number to call to verify information or provide details about an account. Don’t call the number.
Protecting yourself and your ATM or check card should be a part of your daily routine:
Keep Your Card Safe
- Never leave your card where it might easily be stolen.
- Never write your personal identification number (PIN) on your card or even near it.
- Never disclose your PIN to another person.
- Always notify both the credit union and the police immediately if your card is stolen.
Protect Yourself Too
- Safe Approach – If the ATM you wish to use is not within a secured facility, approach with care. Watch out for suspicious people or circumstances.
- Be Prepared – Have your ATM or debit card ready and be prepared to complete your transaction without delay.
- Protect Your PIN – If there are others nearby, be sure that they can’t see you input your code. Use your body as a screen.
- Don’t Tempt Thieves – After you have completed your transaction, if you have received cash, leave quickly. Exposing cash could invite trouble.
- Safe Departure – Once again, watch for suspicious people or circumstances. If you suspect a problem, go to the nearest populated location or the police immediately.
- Telephone Fraud – Never disclose your account number or PIN to anyone who calls you on the phone, regardless of the circumstances. Credit union personnel do not have access to your PIN and will never ask for or need it.