According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America. The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million people will have their identity stolen each year. Identity theft occurs when a thief uses another person's personal identifying information (Ex. social security number, account number, etc.) with the intent of conducting fraud. This can result in unauthorized charges, bank fraud, government documentation fraud, lease/rental agreements, employment, medical services, and even criminal conduct. The damage can be alarming, including damage to your credit history, personal reputation, and financial duress, and in more rare instances, a criminal record.
Thieves can steal your identity in different ways. Account Take Over is when thieves obtain your personal information, and in many cases, change the official mailing address at the bank or with your existing creditor. Once this has been accomplished, the thief has access to the account for a period of time in which they can access funds, make cash advances, purchases, and even order or create fraudulent checks. Credit Take Over occurs when a thief obtains an individual's personal information and uses this information to apply for new credit. This can involve opening a loan or credit card account using the personal identifying information.
Thieves use various techniques to acquire your personal information:
Stealing is the most common source of acquiring information. Thieves may steal your credit or debit card, mail, wallet/purse, or personal information they find in your home. They may simply use information they acquire by looking over your shoulder (shoulder surfing) or by gathering information from various sources online.
Dumpster Diving occurs when someone sorts through the trash of your home or business looking for documents, bills, credit card pre-approvals, or other paperwork that might contain personal identifying information.
Social Engineering occurs when a thief engages others, with or without their knowledge, to obtain information or to gain access to individuals’ account information or personal identifying information. The thief may abuse access privileges at their work, manipulate someone else to obtain information for their benefit, or they may resort to conning or trickery to get someone to release information. Techniques can vary from simple pretext calling to more elaborate forms including diversion theft, phishing, interactive voice response, baiting (Ex. malware), virus hoaxes, or cracking websites.
Card Skimming occurs when someone uses a small electronic device to swipe and store your credit card number. The card information is then replicated or produced on another card for use.
Phishing is an attempt by thieves to acquire information by pretending to be a financial institution, government agency (Ex. IRS), law enforcement official, or credit card company. Thieves use sophisticated telephone calls, emails, and pop-up messages in a clever attempt to trick you into giving up or verifying information. In some instances you may even think you are making a legitimate purchase or upgrade online, when in fact, the thief is actually using advanced trickery to record your keystrokes in an attempt to acquire your credit card number.
Education and awareness are your best tools of defense. However, there are recommendations that may prevent you from being targeted:
- Shred all financial documents, credit card solicitations, and documents containing personal identifying information
- Never give out personal identifying information over the phone, mail, or the Internet unless you can confirm whom you are dealing with
- Do not post personal identifying information on social media websites
- Do not email contents that includes your social security number, account number or other personal identifying information (Ex. tax return)
- Use appropriate software to erase content on your hard drive before you dispose of an old computer
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; many contain viruses
- Always use anti-spyware and anti-virus software; keep them up to date
- To prevent hacking, use a firewall program, particularly if you are using high speed Internet that stays connected 24/7
- Use complex passwords, change them frequently, and keep them in a secure location
- Deal only with reputable companies on the Internet, even some of the most popular website contain viruses
- Monitor your bank statements and credit card statements for changes or purchases that you did not authorize
- If you are a member of the military and are on active duty, consider placing an active duty alert with the credit bureaus while on your deployments
- Leave your social security card in a secure location; do not carry your social security card in your purse/billfold
- When ordering checks, consider having them delivered to the bank for pick up instead of having them sit in your mail box
- Deliver outgoing mail in a secure post office box instead of your mail box
- Give out your social security number only when absolutely necessary, and never list your social security number on your checks
Pinnacle Bank will never request account information, verification or confirmation from you via email.
Pinnacle Bank continues to identify and monitor the latest forms of fraud and scams. If you have questions, if you believe you have compromised your personal identifying information or if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft; contact an Identity Theft Advocate at Pinnacle Bank!
Federal Trade Commission - Fighting Back Against Identity Theft
Federal Trade Commission - Automatic Debit Scams
Federal Trade Commission - Counterfeit Check Scams
Federal Trade Commission - Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Federal Trade Commission - How Not to Get Hooked by a Phishing Scam
Federal Trade Commission - Stimulus Scams
Federal Trade Commission - Protecting Personal Information - A Guide for Business
Federal Trade Commission - Credit, ATM and Debit Cards - What to do if they are stolen?