WHAT IS IDENTITY THEFT?
Identity theft, or fraud, occurs when an unlawful person steals another person’s information and uses it to benefit themselves. This information can range from Social Security numbers to driver’s license numbers and bank account numbers. This illegal activity can be done in a variety of ways, but more recently the Internet has become a hub for this type of fraudulent behavior. According to the American Bankers Association, the total number of Americans who have experienced identity theft has surpassed 27 million, with the incidence rate increasing each year.
TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT
There are a number of different types of identity theft. Identity theft may be used to facilitate crimes including illegal immigration, terrorism, and espionage. Identity theft may also be a means of blackmail. There are also cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, including online credit card processing and medical insurance (Wikipedia). Listed below are some different types of identity theft and their explanations.
- Financial Identity Theft
The use of someone else’s financial information to steal his or her identity. With this information, the criminal can perpetrate the victim and steal money, set up a means to launder money, and ruin credit.
- Criminal Identity Theft
Occurs when a criminal embezzles personal information or uses a fake ID to steal someone else’s identity. A warrant is given out for the arrest of the victim, and the criminal is liberated from facing the consequences.
- Identity Cloning
Occurs when a person takes someone else’s identity and assumes the victim’s identity in his or her daily life. This could be used to hide from the authorities. For example, an illegal alien could be hiding under a citizen’s name.
METHODS OF IDENTITY THEFT
Identity theft can happen through a number of different methods. These methods are usually carried out by physical contact with paperwork or through electronic means.
- Account Hijacking
The fastest growing form of identity theft, some 2 million people were victimized last year alone. Account hijacking occurs when a criminal obtains your personal banking information and uses it to take over your bank accounts.
- Dumpster Diving
An unlawful person searches through garbage for personal information.
Taking information from computers through viruses and Trojan horses
Physically stealing payment information or identification.
- Shoulder Surfing
Eavesdropping or looking over someone’s shoulder for personal information
Impersonating a reputable institution to gain trust, and then asking for information. For example, someone sends out a phishing email imitating a credit card company. This e-mail usually contains a link that might ask the victim to click and update his or her information. This link will take the victim to a look-a-like website of a company. Once that personal information has been entered, the thief now has access to the information provided by the victim.
The Gartner Research Center found that losses from phishing attacks in 2004 was $137 million, in 2006 it was $2.8 billion. They also found that the number of U.S. adults who received a phishing email doubled from 57 million in 2004 to 109 million in 2006.
Facts and Statistics. Identity Theft Resource Center. Apr. 2007.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP PROTECT AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT?
Protecting against identity theft can be easy, as long as the proper steps are taken to safe guard personal information. Substantial measures are in place at Community Bank to protect your identity and your accounts against theft and fraud. For example, Community Bank’s privacy policies protect your personal and financial information and require password protection and encryption of online transactions. While Community Bank of the Chesapeake has instituted stringent policies to protect your information, it is the responsibility of each of us to help protect our personal information. Listed below are some tips for helping protect your personal information from identity theft.
- Carry as few credit cards as possible and periodically check to make sure you still have them.
- Avoid carrying your Social Security card and passport unless they are needed.
- Never print your Social Security number on your checks.
- Guard your PIN (Personal Identification Number) carefully.
- Make your PIN and passwords hard for someone else to guess. Don’t use your birth date, phone number or last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep a list of your credit card and financial account numbers with phone numbers in a safe place.
- Do not give out financial information (account numbers, credit card numbers or your Social Security number) unless you know the organization or person requesting this information. Notify Community Bank of the Chesapeake or your credit card company of any suspicious phone inquiries, such as those asking for account information.
- Review your financial and credit card statements carefully for unknown transactions. If you see one, call Community Bank of the Chesapeake or your credit card company immediately.
- Report lost checks, credit/check cards and ATM cards immediately. Community Bank of the Chesapeake can immediately block account funds.
- Instead of signing the back of your credit card, write “See Photo ID,” this way if a thief takes your card it cannot be used without your identification.
- Shred any financial solicitations and bank statements before disposing of them. To avoid disposal of paper statements, Community Bank of the Chesapeake offers e-Statements and Bill Pay through Online Banking.
- Put outgoing mail into a secure, official Postal Service collection box. Some thieves have been known to raid home mail boxes.
- Periodically review your credit file and make certain the information is correct. You are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free number and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. For a free report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.
- Install a firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-spam software on your computer and make sure these systems are updated often. Be wary of pop-ups. Look at them closely before clicking anything. You may think you are closing the box, but instead you could be allowing a virus to be planted on your computer. Be wary of emails from people you don’t know.
- Use common sense and caution when deciding to provide personal information.
Community Bank is taking substantive measures to protect the safety and security of your accounts. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the protection of your financial identity, please visit your nearest Community Bank branch location and speak to one of our bankers.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from identity theft, visit OnGuardOnline.gov, a comprehensive website created by the United States Federal Government.
CREDIT REPORTING BUREAUS
Place a fraud alert: 888-766-0008
Order a credit report: 800-685-1111
Place a fraud alert and order a credit report: 888-397-3742
Place a fraud alert: 800-680-7289
Order a credit report: 800-888-4213