No matter how careful you are, you can still become a victim of identity theft. Each day, criminals find new ways to steal personal information, like Social Security and driver's license numbers, so they can take over existing accounts and open fraudulent new ones.
It's important to stay alert and to protect your confidential information at all times. We have provided some helpful information to make sure your identity stays yours and yours alone.
"Vishing" is on the rise...
As customers receive more education about identity theft risks, thieves develop more ways to trick people anew.
The newest identity theft risk is called "vishing," a variation of phishing in which customers are sent emails, but instead of being asked to click on a link and type in their account or identifying information, they are directed to a bogus automated phone number and asked to provide their credit card or personal information over the phone. As customers are directed to enter their account number or identifying information with the phone keypad, the thieves' phone recognizes the keystrokes and collects the information.
There also are reports of a type of vishing scam in which initial contact is made by phone, not by email. In those instances, customers are tricked into providing the three- or four-digit security code on their credit card.
Vishing scams are on the rise due to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allows thieves to obtain cheap phone numbers anonymously, and trick caller ID boxes into displaying false or erroneous information. Although only a few cases have been reported, this practice is expected to grow. Banks should encourage their customers to call the number on the back of their credit cards when they have a question or problem.
If customers receive a phone call from someone asking them to verify account or personal information over the phone, they should hang up and call the number on the back of their credit card, or call their financial institution, and verify that there is a legitimate issue.
...but education and assistance keep pace
The latest identity theft news may sound grim, but as scams evolve, so do the educational materials used to keep consumers one step ahead of the con artists. The Federal Trade Commission has developed a new education program "Avoid Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend", to help consumers avoid becoming identity theft victims. Visit the FTC's website here.
ICBA also provides links to various identity theft resources at www.icba.org. Go to Advocacy in the navigation menu to the left and click on Identity Theft.
Deterring Identity Theft
Here are some ways you can protect your identity and keep your information private:
- Be careful about disclosing information to strangers via the internet, telephone, applications, or through the mail.
- Be especially cautious when sharing information over the internet. Make sure websites have a closed padlock icon in the corner of the screen before submitting data.
- Avoid using obvious passwords and personal identification numbers on your computer and credit/debit cards.
- Copy the contents of your wallet or purse and keep them in a safe place.
- Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately.
- Pay attention to billing cycles for missing bills.
- Don't carry your Social Security card or birth certificate.
- Examine statements for unauthorized charges.
- Shred or destroy credit card offers and other documents that contain personal information.
What to Do if You're a Victim
Sometimes identity thieves can strike even if you've been careful about protecting your personal information. The most important thing you can do if someone steals your identity is to act quickly. Identity thieves can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
- Contact the fraud departments of the 3 major credit bureaus:
- Equifax : 1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com
- Notify your financial institution.
- Inform your credit issuers.
- File a police report with your local law enforcement.
For additional information and advice you can call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Hotline toll free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or visit the following websites: