What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information (such as your name, Social Security Number, or credit card number) without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Typically, the information is used to obtain credit, loans, services, merchandise, rentals, and mortgages in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you apply for a loan or review your credit report, credit card statement, or account statement and notice charges you didn't make--or until you are contacted by a debt collector.
In order to reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take. Just remember the word "SCAM."
S — Be STINGY about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are.
C — CHECK your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn't.
A — ASK periodically for a copy of your credit report. Extensions of credit or inquiries for credit are good indicators that you may be a victim of identity theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three national credit reporting companies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
M — MAINTAIN careful records of your banking and financial accounts. Be sure that all records are stored in a secured location.
Another way to reduce the likelihood of receiving fraudulent solicitation is to remove your name from Direct Marketing and mailing lists.
- To remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit lines by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688)
- To remove your name, phone number, and home address from marketing lists by contacting Direct Marketing Association.
Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service P.O. Box 9008 Farmingdale, NY 11735
Direct Marketing Association Telephone Preference Service P.O. Box 9014 Farmingdale, NY 11735
Other Useful Tips
- Don't carry identifiers (such as, birth certificate, social security card, or passport) you do not need.
- Shred any documents containing personal or financial information (such as, bills, financial statements, pre-approved credit applications, or tax information) before disposal.
- Use strong passwords and memorize them. A strong password contains letters (upper and lower), numbers, and special characters. The more of these that you can include in your password, the more difficult it will be for fraudsters to guess or "crack" your password.
- Memorize the PIN for your debit cards and ensure that it is not being observed when you use it.
- Don't email your information unless it is encrypted.
- Don't enter your information into a website unless it is secured.
- Always make sure your internet browser has the latest security patches, downloaded directly from the browser creator's website. Never click on a browser update sent to you in an email.
- Do not reply to or click on links in an e-mail requests billing, financial, or personal information. Instead, contact the company referenced in the email using information that you are sure is genuine (such as a number found in the telephone book or on a bill).
Prime Meridian Bank will never request personal or financial information by email. Occasionally, we may contact you by phone to verify certain information or request additional information. If you are unsure that it is a Prime Meridian Bank employee, please do not give any information. Instead, request the name and phone number of the person, call us using the bank's main phone number (850) 907-2300, and we will transfer you to that individual.
If You Think You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
Even if you take all of these steps, however, it's still possible that you can become a victim of identity theft. Records containing your personal data--credit card receipts or car-rental agreements, for example--may be found by or shared with someone who decides to use your data for fraudulent purposes. If you discover you are a victim of identity theft, you need to take the following steps immediately, keep notes of conversations and copies of all written correspondence.
- Place a fraud alert with one of the Credit Bureaus and place a "victim's statement" on the file asking that creditors contact you prior to opening new accounts in your name. (You only need to place the fraud alert with one credit bureau because the one you contact is required to send the information to the other two credit bureaus. Their contact numbers are: Equifax 1-800-525-6285; Experian 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion 1-800-680-7289)
- Close all the accounts that you know or think have been compromised or opened fraudulently. Speak to someone in the security/fraud department and follow up with a written statement sent certified mail with return receipt requested for your records.
- Be sure to file a "Miscellaneous Incidents" report with the police where the identity theft occurred. Obtain a copy of the report to help you when dealing with creditors who request proof of the fraud or crime.
- Submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. A complaint can be filed online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft; by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); or in writing to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Additional information from the National Consumers League on scams and prevention: http://www.fakechecks.org/index2.htmlad
Additional information on how to Protect yourself from scam by mail, phone, and email: https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/assistance/protection/IdTheft.html
Additional information on "What to do if you are a victim of Identity Theft.": http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edumicrosites/idtheft/
Additional information on the US Department of Justice's SCAM method and Identity Theft prevention: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html