How Can I Protect Myself from Identity Theft?
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the unlawful use of another person’s identification. Identity theft may take many forms. Common methods of identity theft include credit card or other financial institution fraud, phone or utility service theft, and taking of government documents or benefits. However, thieves are finding new ways of using the identity of their victims every day. The tragic events of September 11 have helped financial institutions and federal regulators learn more about the ways in which terrorist organizations finance their activities. Some of their methods included opening accounts and moving funds using false identities or stolen information about real account holders. One way in which you may help stop these activities and make our financial institutions safer is to protect your account information from thieves and unauthorized users.
Did you know that Visa Debit Card transactions within particular countries and/or cities may be declined in order to prevent account fraud? Whether traveling stateside or abroad, please notify Broadway Bank as to your destination and the duration of your stay. By notifying the bank in advance, you’ll ensure your Visa Debit Card will continue to work in countries or regions where fraud transactions are prevalent.
Please contact the Broadway Bankcard Department at 210.283.6544 or 800.531.7350 for further information or to submit your travel arrangements.
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Surprising to most people is that identity theft is actually a very easy crime to commit. In fact, over 1,400 people are victimized each day. That being the case, it is important for you to know how these thieves operate so you can protect your personal information.
At the heart of the crime is the thief obtaining information that most people would assume only the true owner of the information would know. Common examples are social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, financial institution account numbers, mother’s maiden names, and passports.
Thieves obtain this information in numerous ways. Some thieves will steal wallets, purses, and even mail. Others will listen and/or watch a person conduct personal business, such as talking on the telephone or getting cash from an automated teller machine. Thieves will also deceive or trick people into disclosing personal information through phone scams, via the mail, or on the Internet.
Very aggressive thieves will even obtain personal information by using a process referred to as “pretext calling.” Pretext calling occurs when an individual contacts an entity in possession of a customer’s personal information and cons the entity into releasing the information by acting as the customer or someone authorized to have the customer’s information.
Once a thief has possession of the information, the thief will apply for credit cards, loans, phone services, or just about any other service where economic gain can be realized without actual payment. When applying for credit cards, loans, or other services, thieves will often intentionally use incorrect addresses or complete change of address forms on existing accounts so the victim will not be immediately aware of the crime.
How Does Identity Theft Affect Me?
Identity theft can cause its victims numerous problems. Most significantly, it can destroy the financial history you have worked so hard to obtain. Repairing your credit history can require significant time and money. You may not be able to stop a thief until thousands of dollars of debt have been attributed to you.
How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
The following are just some of the ways you can reduce the risk of identity theft:
- Keep your credit cards, debit cards, personal identification numbers (PINs) and other passwords, checks, social security cards, or documents which bear your social security number, health insurance cards, driver’s license and number, and other personal information where they will be safe. When disposing of these items, do so by shredding.
- Keep your deposit and withdrawal slips, credit card purchase receipts, financial institution statements, credit card statements, utility bills, medical bills, insurance information, investment updates, and credit card solicitations where they will be safe. When disposing of them, do so by shredding.
- Don’t put your trash out until shortly before it will be picked up.
- Mail bill payments and other items that contain personal information at a U.S. Postal Service drop box rather than in your curb side mailbox. Don’t put any mail in your curb side mailbox until shortly before it will be picked up.
- Take your mail out of your curb side mailbox as soon as possible after it has been delivered. If you are traveling, have the U.S. Postal Service hold your mail or have someone you trust pick it up daily.
- Limit the information on your checks, and don’t carry around any more cards than necessary.
- Don’t give any of your personal information to any web sites that do not use encryption or other secure methods to protect it.
- Use a firewall if you have a high-speed Internet connection. This software can be purchased online or from most software retailers.
- Don’t use PIN’s or passwords that are easy to guess ( for example, don’t use birth dates or spouse, child, or pet names.
- Examine your credit card and financial institution statements immediately upon receipt to determine whether there were any unauthorized transactions. Report any that you find immediately to the financial institution.
- Make prompt inquiry if bills or statements are not received in a timely fashion - this could mean that they are being diverted by an identity theft.
- Obtain copies of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (identified in item 2) to be sure that they are accurate.
You may also wish to do the following:
- Request not to receive any further pre-approved offers of credit by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
- Ask to be removed from national direct mail lists by writing to the DMA Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008. Include your name and address.
- Ask not to receive telephone solicitations from national marketers by writing to the DMA Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014. Include your name, address, and telephone number.
What Should I Do If My Identity Has Been Stolen?
In the event that you suspect your identity has been stolen or you are, in fact, certain that it has been stolen, follow these simple steps:
1) Immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission:
- 1-877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)
- Consumer Response Center, F.T.C.
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
2) Contact the three credit reporting agencies to put yourself on Fraud Alert and request a copy of your credit report:
- Equifax – P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250,
or call 800-525-6285.
- Experian – P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013,
or call 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
- TransUnion – P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634,
or call 800-680-7289.
3) Cancel all accounts that have fraudulent activity or are at risk.
4) Contact your local law enforcement agency.
5) If you know or suspect that your mail has been stolen, contact the United States Postal Service,
6) Keep detailed records of any theft of your identity and of your efforts to resolve the same.
- Log the date, time, and amount of any unauthorized activity on your accounts.
- Log the date, time, duration, and cost of any phone calls.
- Log the date and cost of any mailings and keep copies.