Protecting Your Identity
What is ID Theft?
Many people are falling victim to a new breed of criminal know as “identity thieves”. These are crooks who operate in both the physical and virtual worlds, searching for opportunities to steal valuable pieces of personal information that belong to someone else. For the identity thief, the phrase “a little goes a long way” rings true. With minimal amount of valid information (e.g., Social Security Number, driver’s license, etc.), a skilled thief can quickly assume an individual’s identity to conduct numerous crimes such as:
- Opening new bank accounts and writing bad checks
- Obtaining personal or car loans
- Establishing new credit card accounts and not paying the bills
- Changing your credit card mailing address and charging on your existing accounts
- Getting cash advances
- Obtaining employment
- Establishing a cellular phone or utility service and running up bills
- Renting an apartment, then avoiding the rent payments and getting evicted
What Do Victims Face?
One of the biggest problems with cases involving identity theft is that it can take months before the victim is aware of any wrongdoing. The victim typically learns of the crime after he or she receives a collection agency letter or is turned down for a loan because of a negative credit rating. When it gets to this point, a victim will often end up spending many hours reclaiming his or her identity and straightening out financial matters.
Protect Yourself Against ID Theft
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure you know who you are dealing with.
- Don’t use your Social Security Number on your driver’s license or other forms of identification.
- Check your credit report. 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 every 12 months (visit www.annualcreditreport.com).
- Use a shredder before disposing of personal or financial records.
- Avoid passwords that include personal information.
- If you receive an e-mail asking for personal information, do not hit the reply button or click on any website link in the e-mail. Instead, go directly to the sender’s website by typing in the sender’s website address.
- Don’t leave sensitive documents containing personal information where anyone can see it.
- Don’t use an automatic log-in feature on your computer.
- When going on vacation, temporarily stop mail delivery; the U.S. Postal Service will hold mail for you.
What To Do If You Become a Victim of Identity Theft
- Contact one of the national credit bureaus to place a fraud alert in your file and request a free copy of your credit reports. You need only to make a toll-free call to any one of the three credit bureaus. The other two will be automatically notified to place a fraud alert in your file and send you a credit report.
- Social Security Fraud Hot Line: 800-269-0271. If your social security number has been compromised, report it immediately to the Social Security Administration.
- File a report with your local police or law enforcement agency. Be sure to get a report number and/or copy of the report should anyone request proof of the crime.
- Close any accounts you know or think have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Contact the fraud departments of creditors and follow up with a letter of affidavit. This is very important for credit card issuers, since the consumer protections law requires cardholders to submit disputes in writing. For a copy of the ID theft Affidavit, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
- File a complaint with FTC. The FTC handles complaints from victims of identity theft, provides information to those victims, and refers complaints to appropriate entities, including the major credit-reporting agencies and law enforcement agencies. Visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
“Phishing” is an e-mail scam involving fraudsters who pretend to be a legitimate business such as a financial institution, credit card company, online service provider, or retailer, etc. Hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, they sent our “official-looking” e-mails to trick you into divulging your account numbers, password, Social Security Numbers, and other sensitive data. In most cases, the e-mail claims there is an account problem or warns of a possible account fraud threat. Either way – the whole idea is to convince you there is an immediate need to update your financial or personal information.
- Treat unsolicited e-mail requests for financial information or other personal data with suspicion. Do not reply to the unsolicited e-mail or respond by clicking on a link within the unsolicited e-mail message.
- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if it is genuine. Visit a web site or call a phone number that you know is legitimate.
- Look for the lock. Prior to entering account information on any web site, be sure to look for the “locked padlock” in the browser or “https” at the beginning of the web site address to make sure the site is secure.
- Forward any suspicious e-mails to the Better Business Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or for Visa related e-mails forward to email@example.com and immediately call Western Dakota Bank.
Any information sent to the bank via email is not encrypted and we caution anyone sending email not to send any confidential data.