Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise and it is now the most frequently committed white collar crime in the country. Last year, almost ten million Americans were the victims of some type of identity theft (up from just over eight million the previous year.) Their losses totaled more than fifty billion dollars.
In identity theft, criminals get hold of personal information such as your social security number and use this to get credit cards and even car and home loans in your name. Sometimes, victims' only warning that this has happened is a collection agency's call, demanding payment on a purchase or loan.
To fight identity theft, banks use a combination of safeguards, including employee training, strict privacy policies, rigorous security standards and encryption systems. Legally, you are not liable for loans you did not agree to, but restoring your identity can be a huge inconvenience.
Be Aware of the Threat
Identity thieves use a number of methods to obtain personal data. Take these steps to protect yourself:
- Tear up receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates or have outside workers in your house.
- Protect your PINs and passwords; use a 10-digit combination of letters and numbers for your passwords, and change them periodically.
- Monitor account activity on a regular basis. Sign up to view your financial accounts and billing statements online.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- When conducting business online, make sure your browser's padlock icon is active.
- Don't reply to e-mail or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don't click on links in the message.
- Use antivirus and antispyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Review your credit report to ensure accuracy. You may order free copies at www.annualcreditreport.com.
If You Become a Victim
Contact these three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report:
- Equifax, 800-525-6285
- Experian, 888-397-3742
- TransUnion, 800-680-7289
- Close the accounts that may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/idtheft or 877-438-4338.
If you have questions about identity theft, or believe you may be a victim, don't hesitate to call on us at Middleburg Bank.
As always, if you have a suggestion that would make your banking experience with Middleburg Bank even better, please send me an email at email@example.com.