Simple Steps to Safeguard Your Identity
Up to 500,000 individuals are victims each year of identity theft, a fast-growing form of fraud. Fortunately, a few simple steps can help ensure you stay out of these statistics. "Identity theft" or "account takeover fraud" involves criminals stealing a person's personal information. The perpetrators assume a person's identity, apply for credit in the victim's name, run up huge bills, stiff creditors and generally destroy the victim's credit record.
At Regal Bank, we put a combination of safeguards in place to protect customers, including employee training, rigorous security standards, data encryption and fraud detection. You can take these steps to avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft:
- Never give your Social Security or account numbers to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Shred receipts, old bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away. Perpetrators could steal information from your trash and use it to get credit in your name.
- Review your bank and credit card statements as soon as you receive them and review for unauthorized transactions.
- Protect your PINs and computer passwords; use a combination of letters and numbers and change them often. Never carry this information with you!
- Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy. Call any of the three national credit reporting agencies: Trans Union (800) 680-7289, Experian (888) 397-3742 and Equifax (800) 525-6285.
- Report any suspected fraud to Regal Bank and credit card issuers immediately so they can start to close accounts and clear your name right away. You may also contact the FTC's ID Theft Consumer Response Center toll-free at (877) IDTHEFT.
By law you are only liable for the first $50 of unauthorized charges against a credit card account. Still, restoring your identity can be a tremendous inconvenience. It's worth your while to exercise a little preventive maintenance. Protect yourself against this terrible crime.
For more personal finance tips, visit our Web site at http://www.regalbanknj.com. or visit the American Bankers Association's Consumer Connection at www.aba.com.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Phishing is a scam that involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with — for example, an Internet Service Provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to "update," "validate," or "confirm" your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don't respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization's site. However, it is a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
- Never give out your personal financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax or email, no matter how official it may seem.
- Do not respond to emails that may warn of dire consequences unless you validate your information immediately. You should contact the company to confirm the e-mail's validity using a telephone number or web address you know to be genuine.
- Check your credit card and bank account statements regularly and look for unauthorized transactions, even small ones. Some thieves hope small transactions will go unnoticed. Report discrepancies immediately.
- When submitting financial information to a web site, look for the padlock or key icon at the bottom of your browser, and make sure the Internet address begins with "https." This signals that your information is secure during transmission.
- Report suspicious activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
- If you have responded to an email, contact Regal Bank immediately to help protect your account and your identity. For information on identity theft, visit ABA's Consumer Connection at www.aba.com.
Phishing attacks use 'spoofed' e-mails and fraudulent web sites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social security numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5% of recipients to respond to them.
Check Your Purse or Wallet
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended – even for a minute.
- Protect your PINs (don't carry them in your wallet!) and passwords; use a 10-digit combination of letters and numbers for your passwords, and change them periodically.
- Carry only personal identification and credit cards you actually need in your purse or wallet. If your I.D. or credit cards are lost or stolen, notify the creditors immediately, and ask the credit bureaus to place a "fraud alert" in your file.
- Keep a list of all your credit cards and bank accounts along with their account numbers, expiration dates and credit limits, as well as the telephone numbers of customer service and fraud departments. Store this list in a safe place.
- If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
Keep Your Personal Numbers Safe and Secure
- When creating passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) do not use any part of your Social Security number, birth date, middle name, wife's name, child's name, pet's name, mother's maiden name, address, consecutive numbers, or anything that a thief could easily deduce or discover.
- Ask businesses to substitute a secret alpha-numeric code as a password instead of your mother's maiden name.
- Shield the keypad when using ATMs or when placing calling card calls.
- Memorize your passwords and PINs; never keep them in your wallet, purse, Rolodex or electronic organizer.
- Get your Social Security number out of circulation and release it only when necessary — for example, on tax forms and employment records, or for banking, stock and property transactions.
- Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks, and do not allow merchants to write your Social Security number on your checks. If a business requests your Social Security number, ask to use an alternate number.
- Never give your Social Security number, account numbers or personal credit information to anyone who calls you.
Bank, Shop and Spend Wisely
- Store personal information in a safe place and shred documents you don't need. Shred charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail before you put them out in the trash.
- Cancel your unused credit cards so that their account numbers will not appear on your credit report.
- When you fill out a loan or credit application, be sure that the business either shreds these applications or stores them in locked files.
- Shred receipts, bank statements and unused pre-approved credit card offers and convenience checks before throwing them away.
- When possible, watch your credit card as the merchant completes the transaction.
- Use credit cards that have your photo and signature on the front.
- Sign your credit cards immediately upon receipt.
- Carefully consider what information you want placed in the residence telephone book and ask yourself what it reveals about you.
- Keep track of credit card, debit card and ATM receipts. Never throw them in a public trash container. Shred them at home when you no longer need them.
- Ask businesses what their privacy policies are and how they will use your information:
Can you choose to keep it confidential? Do they restrict access to data?
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online.
- When conducting business online, use a secure browser that encrypts or scrambles purchase information and make sure your browser's padlock or key icon is active.
- Don't open e-mail from unknown sources. Use virus detection software.
Review Your Information
- Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies every year and make sure all the information is correct especially your name, address, and Social Security number. Look for indications of fraud, such as unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause.
Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that no one else is using your Social Security number for employment.