General information about identity theft.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone without your permission uses your personal identifying information - like name, Social Security number or credit card number – to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime in which people try to illegally use your personal information for their own gain. They can charge expenses to your accounts, create new accounts in your name, or use your personal information for other illegal purposes. Piedmont Federal Savings Bank is committed to helping you avoid such disasters, and if you do become a victim we want to help you every step of the way.
How does one become a victim of identity theft?
Most of the time, victims of identity fraud gave the thieves the necessary information. For example, have you ever received an email that says, “You won a 52-inch TV!” or “You won the lottery!”? Have you ever received an email from an overseas country stating that someone died, left $200,000.00 and all you need to do to get a percentage of the money is..? You might get an email saying “There is an issue with your account, please login with your user name and password.”
Other ways fraudsters look to steal your identity are going through your trash and looking for bank statements and other important documentation, intercepting your mail, and stealing your wallet or purse. Another tactic is called “Shoulder Surfing.” This happens when you are at an airport or coffee shop and somebody is looking over your shoulder to see your phone or computer with your personal information on the screen. When viewing your personal information in public places or at kiosks always be aware of and alert to the people around you.
You also can become a victim by downloading malware or spyware. According to Wikipedia, “malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.” These criminals are looking for your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, birth date, passwords, billing and email addresses, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and ATM PIN numbers. The more information you give them, the easier it is to steal your identity. Remember these thieves are patient and may lay in hiding for several months or longer before they reappear to attack you.
Signs of identity theft
1. Accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
2. Fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports, including accounts and personal information, like your Social Security number, addresses, name or initials, and employers.
3. Failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
4. Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
5. Being denied credit or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
6. Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.
7. A revealing sign of identity theft is if you are missing mail or see a significant drop in amount of mail you receive.
Steps to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft
1. Think security. If you are not sure about something, do not open or install it.
2. If asked to download a file and you are not sure what it does, do not download it.
3. Get an anti-spyware program, keep it updated, and use it.
4. Do not open emails from people you do not know, simply delete them.
5. Do not open attachments if you are not positive you know what they are.
6. If an email or phone call offers something too good to be true, then it probably is.
7. Use well-known anti-virus software and update it at least once a day or more.
8. Monitor your financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking closely for charges you did not make.
9. Shred all sensitive documents instead of throwing them in the trash.
10. Keep your credit card receipts. They can help you double check your bank and card statements and identify any suspicious activity.
11. Stay current with computer patches! (All vendors have updates).
12. Be smart; know what services run on your computer and what ports are open.
13. Stay away from peer-to-peer sharing software programs.
14. Select intricate passwords and use at least eight characters with numbers, letters, and special characters.
15. If your computer has a Trojan or worm, rebuild it because this is much more secure than fixing it.
16. Always think before you click.
Steps to take if you have become a victim of identity theft
1. Contact Piedmont Federal Savings Bank and other related vendors immediately. Close any accounts that may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Place a fraud alert on your credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus. Also request to review your credit report for suspicious activity because your credit report is available free each year from www.annualcreditreport.com according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
- 888.766.0008 Equifax
- 888.397.3742 Experian
- 800.680.7289 TransUnion
2. File a report with local police.
3. Call the Social Security Fraud Hotline. Report that your information has been lost or stolen immediately by calling the Hotline at 800.269.0271.
4. Notify the Federal Trade Commission. Call 877.ID.THEFT (877.438.4338) or visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves.
5. Report stolen mail and file a report with the Postal Service. Call your local Postal Inspector or visit www.usps.com.
6. Change your phone numbers, home and cellular. Add your new phone numbers to the "Do not call registry" by calling toll free 888.382.1222 or by email at www.donotcall.gov.
7. Close all affected accounts and communicate to all businesses in writing.
8. Place a security freeze on your credit, per the Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005 for North Carolina, by visiting www.ncdoj.gov. Placing a security freeze on your credit reports blocks access to your credit unless you have given your permission, thus preventing any new accounts opened in your name.
9. Create a personalized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov that walks you through each step of the process.