Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Washington, D.C. (October 1, 2010)—Close to
10 million people each year have their personal information such as
Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers and home
addresses stolen, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Victims of
identity theft spend approximately $5 million a year repairing their
credit, and businesses deal with nearly $50 million in fraudulent
charges annually. While the Internet has given rise to a variety of
financial crimes that include phishing, spoofing, pharming and vishing,
most cases of identity theft still occur offline.
With these statistics in mind, the Independent
Community Bankers of America (ICBA) offers the following tips to help
consumers guard against identity theft.
“Community banks are careful guardians of our
customers’ personal data and information, but our customers must also
play a role and practice caution in stores, online and as they go about
their business every day,” said Jim MacPhee, ICBA chairman and CEO of
Kalamazoo County State Bank in Kalamazoo, Mich.
The following tips can help lower your risk of
becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Don’t give out personal information over the
phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you know who
you’re dealing with and preferably only if you've initiated the
contact. Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
As a general rule, never give out your Social Security or driver’s
- Don’t put personal information such as your
birth year, mother’s maiden name or other information on public
social media sites. Fraudsters can use that information to decipher
your passwords. Also, if you use a smart phone, be careful not to
list personal information, account numbers and passwords. If you
lose or misplace your phone, a potential fraudster could easily
access your information.
- Ask questions whenever you are asked for
personal information that seems inappropriate for the transaction.
Ask how the information will be used and if it will be shared. Ask
how it will be protected. If you’re not satisfied with the answers,
don’t give your personal information.
- Remember: Banks will not ask you to verify
your personal account information over the phone or via e-mail if
they initiated the call. They already have that on file. If you
receive a phone call or e-mail asking you to verify such
information, don't respond. Instead, contact the bank directly.
- Don’t leave sensitive documents containing
personal information where people can see it. Shred or destroy
papers containing your personal information, including credit card
offers and convenience checks that you don’t use.
- Retrieve your postal mail promptly, and
discontinue delivery while you’re out of town. Whenever possible,
mail bills from your post office, not your mail box. Stop or reduce
junk mail or unsolicited credit card offers by visiting the National
Credit Bureau’s opt out website at:
www.optoutprescreen.com or call them at (888) 567-8688.
- Open your bills and bank statements right
away. Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals
and report them immediately. Call if bills don’t arrive on time—it
may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide
- Check your credit reports. Review your credit
report at least once a year. Check for changed addresses and
fraudulent charges. To find out more about credit reports, your
rights as a consumer, access the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the
FACT Act at
- Protect your computer by following good
security practices. Use strong passwords that are hard to guess. Use
firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software that you update
regularly. Download software only from sites you know and trust and
only after reading all the terms and conditions. Don’t click on
links in pop-up windows or in spam e-mail.
- Before you get rid of an old computer, make
sure you destroy the information on the hard drive. Often that means
destroying the drive itself because erasing data doesn’t completely
eliminate it. Otherwise look for software tools that will
completely wipe data from the hard drive.
- Use caution when shopping online, check out a
website before entering your credit card number or other personal
out of information sharing. Only enter personal information on
secure web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often
tell if a page is secure if “https” is in the URL or if there is a
padlock icon on the browser window. Consumer protections under the
federal Fair Credit Billing Act apply to Internet credit card
purchases. Keep records of the purchase.
“No method is foolproof,” said MacPhee. “Identity
thieves are devising new schemes all the time. But when you see how long
it takes for someone to restore their good credit after being
victimized, then you know that any steps you can take to prevent
identity theft are definitely worth the extra time.”
For more information, visit the Identify Theft Web
The Independent Community Bankers of America,
the nation’s voice for community banks, represents nearly 5,000
community banks of all sizes and charter types throughout the United
States and is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the
community banking industry and the communities and customers we serve.
For more information, visit
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