Online Banking
Online Security

 

General Online Security
Identity Theft
Fake Checks Scams

 

 

General Online Security

 Please take the time to read this friendly reminder from your community bank in order to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. 

If nothing else, remember this phrase!

“We will never call or email you to obtain your debit card number, account number, social security number or any other piece of personal information. “ Please do not provide this sensitive information to any callers, even if they appear to be legitimate. They may not be who they say they are.

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Protect your computers and mobile devices

If you store sensitive information on your computer or mobile device, make sure it is encrypted and/or protected with a strong password. Use a variety of strong passwords to protect your online services such as email and banking - do not use the same password for everything.

Keep a close watch on your personal information

Your personal information resides in many places – know exactly where. Identity theft can start from obvious places like a lost wallet, to less obvious places such as your mailbox and trash. Wherever it resides, take steps to protect your personal information.

Be Alert.

If you receive an email that you did not expect, and it contains links or attachments, the best practice is to immediately delete it. Remember the phrase! If someone contacts you via phone claiming to be from your bank, and requests that you verify sensitive personal or account information, immediately hang up. Banks will never contact you for this information - if you are not sure, call them back using a number you already have (not one the caller gives you).

Do not click on web links or visit unknown websites. Never download something unless you know its true origin and that the source is legitimate.

Monitor your credit reports for questionable activity – the three major credit reporting agencies provide free annual reports.

Take Action.

If you suspect that personal sensitive information may have been lost or stolen, act quickly. File a police report, and obtain a copy for reference. Notify your financial institutions. Contact the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and place a “fraud alert” on your credit so that all requests for new credit accounts must be verified by you over the phone.

The safety and security of your personal information is of utmost importance to us. We hope that with these safeguards you will be better prepared when you are confronted with phishing attempts. We thank you for being a valued customer.

 

Identity Theft

What is identity theft?
How do thieves steal an identity?
What do thieves do with a stolen identity?
How can you find out if your identity was stolen?
How long can the effects of identity theft last?
What should you do if your identity is stolen?
Should you file a police report if your identity is stolen?
How long can the effects of identity theft last?
What can you do to help fight identity theft?

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record.  Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

How do thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

  1. Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  2. Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  3. Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  4. Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  5. Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
  6. Pretexting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.  For more information about pretexting, click here.

What do thieves do with a stolen identity?

Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways.

Credit card fraud:

  • They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquent accounts appear on your credit report.
  • They may change the billing address on your credit card so that you no longer receive bills, and then run up charges on your account. Because your bills are now sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there's a problem.

Phone or utilities fraud:

  • They may open a new phone or wireless account in your name, or run up charges on your existing account.
  • They may use your name to get utility services like electricity, heating, or cable TV.

Bank/finance fraud:

  • They may create counterfeit checks using your name or account number.
  • They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks.
  • They may clone your ATM or debit card and make electronic withdrawals your name, draining your accounts.
  • They may take out a loan in your name.

Government documents fraud:

  • They may get a driver's license or official ID card issued in your name but with their picture.
  • They may use your name and Social Security number to get government benefits.
  • They may file a fraudulent tax return using your information.

Other fraud:

  • They may get a job using your Social Security number.
  • They may rent a house or get medical services using your name.
  • They may give your personal information to police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.

How can you find out if your identity was stolen?

The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft. For more information, visit the Detect Identity Theft section.

Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done.

  • You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred.
  • You may find out when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
  • You may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.

What should you do if your identity is stolen?

Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name. To learn more about these steps and more, visit the DEFEND:  Recover from Identity Theft section. To file a complaint, click here.

Should you file a police report if your identity is stolen?

A police report that provides specific details of the identity theft is considered an Identity Theft Report, which entitles you to certain legal rights when it is provided to the three major credit reporting agencies or to companies where the thief misused your information.  An Identity Theft Report can be used to permanently block fraudulent information that results from identity theft, such as accounts or addresses, from appearing on your credit report. It will also make sure these debts do not reappear on your credit reports. Identity Theft Reports can prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, or selling them to others for collection. An Identity Theft Report is also needed to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.

You may not need an Identity Theft Report if the thief made charges on an existing account and you have been able to work with the company to resolve the dispute.  Where an identity thief has opened new accounts in your name, or where fraudulent charges have been reported to the consumer reporting agencies, you should obtain an Identity Theft Report so that you can take advantage of the protections you are entitled to.

In order for a police report to entitle you to the legal rights mentioned above, it must contain specific details about the identity theft.  You should file an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC and bring your printed ID Theft Complaint with you to the police station when you file your police report.  The printed ID Theft Complaint can be used to support your local police report to ensure that it includes the detail required.

A police report is also needed to get copies of the thief’s application, as well as transaction information from companies that dealt with the thief.  To get this information, you must submit a request in writing, accompanied by the police report, to the address specified by the company for this purpose.  You can find more information and a model letter here

How long can the effects of identity theft last?

It's difficult to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger. That's because it depends on many factors including the type of theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related to correcting your credit report.

Victims of identity theft should monitor financial records for several months after they discover the crime. Victims should review their credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft.

Don't delay in correcting your records and contacting all companies that opened fraudulent accounts.  Make the initial contact by phone, even though you will normally need to follow up in writing.  The longer the inaccurate information goes uncorrected, the longer it will take to resolve the problem.

What can you do to help fight identity theft?

A great deal.

Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms identity theft. Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.

Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community. The FTC has prepared a collection of easy-to-use materials to enable anyone regardless of existing knowledge about identity theft to inform others about this serious crime. To learn more, click here.

* The information above has been taken from the Federal Trade Commission Website on Identity Theft at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/  

 

Fake Checks Scams

What is a fake check scam?

It's a fast-growing fraud that could cost you thousands of dollars. There are many types of fake check scams, but it all starts when someone gives you a realistic-looking check or money order and asks you to send cash somewhere in return. It's phony, and so is the person's story, but that may take weeks to discover. Now your bank wants the money back. However, just because you can get the cash doesn't mean the check or money order is good. Ultimately, you are responsible for the checks or money orders you deposit or cash. That's how the scam works.

While there are some common fake check scams, new variations constantly pop up, so it's important to learn the warning signs to avoid becoming a victim.

What are the warning signs?

New variations of fake check scams constantly pop up, but in each case they give you a realistic-looking check or money order and ask you to send cash in return.

  • Scammers befriend you and ask you to cash a check or money order as a favor.
  • They want to buy something that you are selling and send a check or money order for more than you're asking.
  • They hire you to work at home and ask you to deposit checks or money orders in your account as part of your job. Sometimes they have you open a new account for the "business", but you're still responsible for any checks that you deposit.
  • They send you a check or money order as an "advance" on the millions that you're going to receive from a sweepstakes, lottery, or inheritance.
  • They offer you a foreign business deal and send you a check or money order as an advance on your profits.

How can I tell if a check or money order is counterfeit?

These phony checks and money orders are so realistic-looking that even bank tellers are fooled. They may look like cashiers checks, checks from business accounts, money orders, and travelers or gift checks. The companies whose names appear on them may be real, but the checks have been dummied up without their knowledge. Even if you call the bank and learn that there is an account in the name of the person or company on a check, that doesn’t mean it’s valid. It’s also tricky to confirm that a money order or a cashier’s check is real, since the crook could have actually purchased one and made copies to distribute to victims. Here are some sources to help identify counterfeits.

Why can’t my bank tell if the check or money order is good?

  • When you deposit a check or money order, federal law requires you to have access to the funds within one to five days, but the actual processing takes longer.
  • Banks, credit unions, and check cashing services accept checks and money orders based on your identification. They don’t have any information about the source.
  • Because the check or money order goes back to the source, it can take a while for counterfeits to be discovered. For instance, if a check seems to come from a business account, the business may not learn about it until it appears on its next bank statement.
  • You’re responsible because you’re in the best position to determine the risk of accepting the check or money order – you dealt with the person who gave it to you.

How do the scammers find victims?

  • They scan newspapers and online advertisements looking for people who have listed items for sale or places to rent.
  • They check postings from online job sites or place an ad soliciting contact information.
  • They meet people through social networking sites, chatrooms, and other places on the ‘Net.
  • They make phone calls and send faxes, emails or letters to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.

How can I prevent becoming a victim?

  • Think about it. There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to send cash anywhere in return. 
  • Be aware that just because you can get the cash quickly – usually in one to five days – doesn’t mean the check or money order is good. Crooks take advantage of the fact that counterfeits can take weeks – even months – to discover. By then you’ve sent the money and have to pay it back to your bank.
  • Only cash a check or money order for a close relative or someone you’ve met in person and known for a long time, since you’ll be responsible if it’s phony.

What can I do?

You can be a fraud fighter by spreading the word to everyone you know – your family and friends, the people with whom you work or go to school, the people that attend your place of worship, the people you chat with online, the members of clubs or other groups to which you belong. Learn the warning signs of fake check scams to prevent becoming a victim. Share the links to the videos and tests on this website and encourage friends and family to pass the word along.

* The information above has been taken from the National Consumers League Website on Fake Check Scams at http://www.fakechecks.org/prevention.html

 

 

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