Identity Theft Prevention
Identity theft in its many forms continues to be a concern…one that Pioneer Bank & Trust and financial regulators are addressing daily. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to establish credit or borrow money in your name. It is important to remember, however, that just as our defenses against identity theft become more sophisticated, so do the methods criminals use to defraud consumers. Knowing the threat is the first line of defense, say the experts. That means keeping abreast of the frauds active in today’s environment…and knowing what you can do to protect yourself.
Recent studies indicate that unauthorized access to checking accounts is the fastest growing form of identity theft, occurring primarily through phishing and hacking.
Hijacking by Phishing occurs when a person provides personal information (social security number, account numbers, etc.) in response to a fraudulent email or phone call asking for information, often a ruse to correct a “problem” with your account.
Hijacking by Spyware can occur when malicious software (called malware) invades a computer and collects personal information for a criminal’s use. The computer owner is usually unaware it is occurring.
What You Can Do
Password: Make it unique, and hard for criminals to guess (e.g., do not use your street address).
Anti-Virus: Keep your computer’s anti-virus software up to date. New viruses are being created every day.
Anti-Spyware: Software to detect and remove spyware is readily available and should be on all computers.
Don’t Get Phished: Don’t answer any suspicious emails. Always remember that Pioneer Bank & Trust will not ask you to “verify” any information through an email. If you get such an email, it is a scam. Be suspicious of phone calls that request your account or other personal information.
Credit Card Fraud
Stolen credit card information is the most common transaction fraud. In it’s simplest form, it involves a criminal stealing your credit card information and running up charges in your name. This can lead to identity theft if fraudsters steal your personal information, then open new credit card accounts in your name. Left unchecked, it can spoil your credit record, ruin your credit score, and to make it difficult to land a new mortgage or even a job!
Regardless of the means, the result is that victims must spend time and energy correcting the damage done by having credit charged illegally in their name.
- Implement the computer security measures noted here.
- Protect you wallet from pickpockets and thieves.
- Destroy credit card solicitations before throwing them away. “Dumpster-diving” is still one way criminals get cards in your name.
- Prepare a list of your credit card numbers and company contact information.
- Shred bank statements before discarding.
- Report lost or stolen cards immediately.
The Importance of Early Detection
No matter the type of identity theft involved, some simple preventive measures can save you time and trouble, and perhaps ward off identity theft altogether.
What You Can Do
Monitor Your Accounts Regularly: People who monitor their accounts online tend to detect hijacking earlier. In one report, victims’ losses were a fraction of those who detected crime via paper statements.
Check Your Credit Score: Monitoring this important rating of your credit will often provide early detection of fraudulent activity, as well as the means to protect your accounts while you undertake further investigation. Federal law permits you one free credit report per year from each of the three major agencies. That means you can request one from each every four months.
Pioneer Bank & Trust is taking substantial measures to protect your identity and make banking as safe and secure as it can be. This includes bank-wide evaluation of security systems, employee security training, and enhanced online banking security procedures.
Checklist For Victims
If you become a victim of identity theft, you should do the following:
- File a Police Report.
- Notify the companies you have credit cards and debit cards with to cancel your existing card numbers.
- Notify Pioneer Bank & Trust so we can put an alert on your accounts.
- Notify the credit bureau fraud units.
- Transunion 1-800-680-7289
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-800-397-3742
- Place a fraud alert statement on your credit report.
- Request that credit bureaus identify accounts closed due to fraud as “closed at consumer’s request”.
- Request a credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or by phone at (877) 322-8228.
- Report check theft to check verification companies.
- Check with the post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
- Follow-up telephone contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence.
We have described some of the methods criminals are using to obtain information about consumers that they use to defraud people, but there are several more methods being used. Any time someone requests your personal information you should consider these points.
- Can I verify that the person requesting the information is who they say they are?
- Is this person associated with a reputable company?
- Does the request seem reasonable and is it similar to the way you have dealt with this company in the past?
If you can not answer yes to these three questions, do not give out your personal information.