Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Be Informed How Internet Phishing Works
In a typical case, you'll receive an e-mail that appears to come from a reputable company that you recognize and do business with, such as your financial institution or government agencies. The e-mail or pop-up message is sent claiming to be from a business or government agencies with whom you have dealt. The e-mail describes a reason you must "verify" or "re-submit" confidential information, such as Financial Information, Credit Card Numbers, Social Security Number, Passwords, Personal Identification Number (PIN) and other confidential information using a return e-mail, a form on a linked Web site, or pop-up message with the name and even the logo of the company or government agency. The e-mail message might threaten some type of consequence if you don't respond. The message directs you to a Web site that looks just like a legitimate financial institution's or government agencies’ site, but isn't. If you comply, the thieves hiding behind the seemingly legitimate web site or e-mail can use the information to make unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account, pay for online purchases using your credit card, or even sell your personal information to other thieves.
What Should Internet Users Do About Phishing Schemes?
The Department of Justice recommends that internet users follow three simple rules when they see e-mails or web sites that may be part of a phishing scheme:
Stop, Look, and Call.
- Stop. Phishers typically include an upsetting or exciting (but false) statement in their e-mail with one purpose in mind. They want people to react immediately to the false information, by clicking on the link and inputting the requested data before they take time to think through what they are doing. No matter how upsetting or exciting the statements in the e-mail may be, there is always enough time to check out the information more closely.
- Look. Internet users should look more closely at the claims made in the e-mail, think about whether those claims make sense and be highly suspicious if the e-mail asks for numerous items of their personal information, such as account numbers, usernames, or password.
- Call. If the e-mail or web site purports to be from a legitimate company or financial institution, Internet users should call or e-mail that company directly and ask whether the e-mail or website is really from that company. To be sure that they are contacting the real company or institution where they have accounts, credit card account holders can call the toll-free customer numbers on the back of their cards, and bank customers can call the telephone numbers on their bank statements.
Here are a few basic steps you should follow to avoid being a victim of identity theft
- Don't give out personal information- Never reveal your account numbers, personal account information or social security numbers over the telephone, via mail or over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact or know who you are dealing with.
- Store your personal information in a safe place - Shred your old credit cards and ATM receipts, old account statements and unused credit card offers before you discard them.
- Protect your PIN numbers and other passwords - Avoid using information that can be easily to obtain (such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, or your phone number). Don't leave your receipts behind or throw them in the trash where thieves can easily retrieve them.
- Carry only identifying information you routinely use - carry only the most essential items you will need that day in a wallet or purse.
- Watch your account information and billing statement - review your monthly account and billing statement carefully. Make sure that all charges, draft or withdrawals were authorized.
- Guard your mail against theft - remove incoming mail promptly, and deposit all outgoing mail.
- Review copies of your credit report - order copies of your credit report yearly from each of the three major credit bureaus to ensure that they are reporting accurate information.
To Order a Credit Report or to Report Fraud Call
If you become a victim of identity theft, do the following
- File a police report
- Contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus to report the identity theft and request that the bureaus place a fraud alert status in your file.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission's toll-free Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT. The FTC will take a report and place your name in nationwide consumer fraud database shared by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Finally, contact you creditors and inform them of your being a victim of identity theft. Close your accounts change all account passwords and obtain new credit, debit and ATM cards.