Protect Yourself Against Fraud & Identity Theft
- Ways you can protect yourself against fraud
- Ways you can protect yourself against identity theft
- Important Definitions to Know
Ways you can protect yourself against fraud:
1. Protect your social security number, credit cards and debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, checking account numbers, and other personal information. A dishonest person can use these details to order checks and credit cards, apply for loans, or otherwise commit fraud using your name.
2. Never provide financial or other personal information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax, letter, or e-mail. An unsolicited request could be coming from a fraud artist attempting to steal your personal information.
3. Keep sensitive information such as banking account statements, credit card statements, checks, etc. in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box. These types of documents should be shredded before discarding.
4. Deal only with legitimate, reputable businesses. Whenever possible, try to do business with companies in your area that you know or that have been recommended to you by a person or persons you trust. Research any companies that you have never heard of by contacting the state Attorney General's office or logging on to the Better Business Bureau's website at http://www.bbb.com. To research an unfamiliar banking institution log on to http://www.fdic.gov.
5. Before agreeing to anything, ask for details in writing and review thoroughly. Never rely on a salesman's verbal representations for significant purchases or investments. If a salesman refuses to provide written information or tries to pressure you, this is your cue to say "goodbye".
6. Be wary of any deals requiring money upfront. If a "deal" seems too good to be true, more than likely it is. Beware of any offers stating "free", "get rich quick", etc.
7. Be extra cautious when providing personal information over the telephone or via the Internet. With the rapid pace of technology, scam artists are becoming more and more devious when it comes to developing ways to obtain your personal information via the Internet. Most legitimate businesses will never ask you to provide or verify personal information or passwords via the Internet. Also be sure to verify that a Website's address is the exact match as what appears in brochures and literature from the company. Scam artists can duplicate a legitimate Website that directs you to a fraudulent Website. When in doubt call the company directly to verify the authenticity of Websites and e-mails.
8. Safeguard your incoming and outgoing mail. This includes checks, credit card statements, credit card applications, bank statements, and any other document that includes information that would be useful to a thief. Remove incoming mail from your mailbox as soon as possible. When on vacation have a family member, friend, or neighbor pick up your mail for you. If you are expecting a check or other important document in the mail and it doesn't arrive in a reasonable period of time, call the sender.
9. Stop bandits from recycling your trash into cash. Thieves known as dumpster divers pick through garbage looking for credit card applications, bank statements, etc. Again, this information should be shredded as opposed to simply throwing them away. Also, be sure to erase all files from the hard drive of any computer you are disposing of. This can be done by purchasing special software.
10. Limit the amount of information that you carry in your wallet or purse. Carry only those credit cards, checks or other items you need. Never carry your passwords or PINs in your wallet or purse.
11. Review credit card statements and bank statements as soon as you receive them. If you notice something suspicious such as a charge or withdrawal you do not recall authorizing, contact the credit card company and/or financial institution immediately. While there are laws that limit your losses if you are victimized by financial fraud, sometimes your maximum liability depends on how quickly you report the problem.
12. Monitor your credit report at least annually for signs of fraud. Privacy laws now allow you a copy of your credit report annually. You may obtain a report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies:
- Equifax (800-685-1111, www.equifax.com)
- Experian (888-397-3742, www.experian.com)
- TransUnion (800-888-4213, www.transunion.com)
Or, you may obtain a free report annually via the internet at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Ways you can protect yourself against identity theft:
1. Reduce the number of credit cards you carry.
2. Check your credit cards statements carefully and immediately report unauthorized purchases.
3. Shred all credit card receipts and solicitation, cancelled checks, and financial documents before throwing them away.
4. Never provide any personal, bank account, or credit card information to anyone who contacts you through a telephone or e-mail solicitation.
5. Never write down PINs and passwords - memorize them and do not use any part of your social security number, date of birth, or address.
6. Guard your social security number. Do not carry it in your wallet or write it on checks.
7. Be careful at ATMs and when using phone cards.
8. Place passwords on all of your accounts.
9. Cancel unused credit cards.
10. Do not leave paid bills in your mailbox for the mail courier to pick up.
11. Check your credit report at least annually.
12. Call your credit card company if your card has expired and you have not received a new one.
13. Do not use your credit card account number on the Internet unless it is encrypted on a secure site.
Important Definitions to Know:
Phishing (pronounced fishing) - The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Website where they are asked to update personal information such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers. The legitimate organization already has this information, thus should not be asking for verification of this information. The Website however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user's information.
Pharming (pronounced farming) - The process of redirecting Internet domain name requests to false Websites to collect personal information. Information collected from these sites may be used to commit fraud and identity theft.
For more information about Identity Theft and what you can do, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore.