We’ve provided the following information to help you remain safe and secure.
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 the 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 terrorists and 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.
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 that 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?
Do not send sensitive information (such as account numbers or social security numbers) via email or when using our contact form. It’s better to call us or visit us regarding such matters. Should you receive a request for confidential information from a Bank of George employee over email, please contact the Operations Department immediately at 702-851-4200.
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, other 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 more debit/credit cards than necessary.
- Don’t give any of your personal information in person, over the telephone, or over the Internet to anyone — unless you have a very good reason to trust them.
- Don’t give any of your personal information in response to an unsolicited e-mail claiming to be from your financial institution or some other highly credible source. This is a technique referred to as “phishing.” Be sure to validate the request before providing the information (for example, contact the customer service telephone number on your account statement to ask about the request).
- Don’t give any of your personal information to any web sites that do not use encryption or other secure methods to protect it.
- Install and periodically update anit-spyware, virus protection and firewall software if you have a high-speed internet connection. This software can be purchased online or from most software retailers.
- Adjust browser settings to prompt the user whenever a website tries to install a new program or Active X control
- Carefully read all End User Licensing Agreements and avoid downloading software when licensing agreements are difficult to understand.
- Maintain current patches to operating systems and browsers.
- Do not open e-mail from untrustworthy sources
- Don’t use PINs 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 a prompt inquiry if bills or statements are not received in a timely fashion—this could mean that they are being diverted by an identity thief.
- Obtain copies of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax®, 1-800-685-1111; Experian®, 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion®, 1-800-888-4213) to be sure that they are accurate.
You may also wish to do the following:
- Request not to receive any further preapproved 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 643, Carmel, NY 10512, or going online to http://thedma.org/services/consumer-help/. Include your name and address.
- Register with the National Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or going online at donotcall.gov.
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. Contact the fraud department of at least one of the following three major credit reporting agencies and ask that a fraud alert be placed in your credit file and for a free credit report (to be on the safe side you may wish to contact all three):
- Equifax® – 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian® – 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion® – 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
2. Close all accounts that are or may be affected by the identity theft. Also, regarding any checking accounts thus closed, contact the following major check verification companies and ask that retailers using their databases not accept checks drawn on the closed accounts:
- TeleCheck® – 1-800-710-9898
- Certegy, Inc. – 1-800-437-5120
- International Check Services® – 1-800-631-9656.
3. File a police report and obtain a copy for submission to credit reporting agencies, creditors, and others.
4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the theft and obtain further guidance as to how to protect yourself:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
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.
Protect Yourself Online
Bank of George acknowledges your account and data security are important to us. We want to help you safeguard your information with the following tips:
Watch Out for Fraudulent Emails
The emails and texts you receive may look official, but they could be fake. Never click on a link or attachment or respond to an email or text with personal information — credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personal details. These may lead you to a very official looking website that is actually attempting to steal your information. Instead, contact the business directly or visit online by typing the company’s official web address into your internet browser.
Bank of George will never ask you to share your online banking password via email, text, and/or phone.
If you suspect that you’ve received a fraudulent email that appears to be from Bank of George, forward the message to Bank of George using the Contact Us link on our website. If you responded to a fraudulent text, email, and/or phone conversation, immediately go to another computer/device (if available) and change your password. Then contact Bank of George’s Operations department at 702-851-4200.
Choose Passwords Carefully
Create passwords that are easy to remember, but difficult for others to guess, and be sure to change them regularly. The best passwords are a minimum of nine characters, contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and use words that are not common. Try to use a phrase such as Th1sismyP4ssword* for the best password security.
Never use the same password for banking as you do for other non-financial sites, such as social media or email. Cyber Attackers may try and use passwords that they obtain from social media sites to gain access to your banking and personal information. Be cautious about choosing security questions with answers that you know can be found easily on public websites or guessed (such as date of birth, email address, etc.).
Be Mindful of What You Share Online
Personal information shared on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used by criminals to commit fraud.
Never post key information, such as where you bank, how you invest your money, physical addresses, emails, cell phone numbers, account numbers, or passwords.
Also, be wary of family friends suddenly asking for banking information or for money to help them in tough situations through social media. Often times, this is known as a Social Media Takeover where the attacker(s) pose as someone you know personally to attempt to gain personal information and/or funds.
Treat Your Mobile Device the Same as your PC
Your mobile phone is just the same as your desktop computer. It contains valuable personal information. Secure it with a password and be sure to wipe it clean before trading it in. Only install apps from well-known stores like Google Play, the App Store, Windows Store, and Amazon.
Be careful of scanning QR codes, as they may direct you to a fraudulent site. Set up and use remote find, lock, and erase functions like “Find my iPhone” or “Android Device Manager.” If your device is acting strangely, be sure to seek out support to determine if someone might have access to your device.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi Hotspots to Access Banking Data
The Wi-Fi available at many public locations is most likely NOT secure. Be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you release. It is relatively simple for an attacker to gain access to your PC through a public Wi-Fi hotspot if the hotspot is not secure.
Secure Your Computer
PCs, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other web-enabled devices need the most current security software, Web browser, and operating system. Also, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech support companies will never call you directly to “fix” your computer. If you receive a call like this, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov or 1-888-382-1222.
Consider using a dedicated computer for banking and/or shopping versus other day-to-day functions to lessen the chance of a computer infection leading to theft. When traveling, keep your computer and devices under your control at all times. Do not leave equipment in the trunk of your car or unattended in public areas. If your computer is acting strangely (flashing screens, typing automatically, mouse moving on its own, etc.) shut the device off immediately and reach out to an official support channel to determine if your device has been compromised.