Protecting Your Identity, Your Privacy, and Your Money
The rate of identity theft-related fraud continues to rise. A recent study* revealed that identity theft affected more than 12 million adults in 2012, which equates to 1 victim every 3 seconds.
Identity theft can occur when an individual obtains personal information, such as your social security number, date of birth, address, and financial account numbers. Once this information is obtained, the thieves will assume or take on your identity, allowing them to illegally purchase items or obtain credit.
Protect yourself. Don't become identity theft's next victim
There are simple precautions that will keep your identity safe. We've provided the following information as a courtesy to help protect you from identity fraud and other criminal activities. Review the information on these pages to learn how to protect your personal and financial information.
ID Theft Information
Learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft.
Identify Theft Resources
Credit Bureau Contact Details
Credit bureaus must provide free copies of credit reports to victims of identity theft.
ATM fraud can occur when individuals lose their card, give their card to someone else to use, or when their Personal Identification Number's confidentiality is compromised. By following these simple guidelines you can greatly reduce your exposure to ATM fraud.
Tips for protecting yourself against ATM fraud
- Never write your Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your card or in your wallet. Memorize your PIN as soon as possible. Do not reveal your PIN to anyone not authorized to use the account.
- Never use your date of birth, social security number, license number or street address as a PIN -- those are the first numbers a crook will try.
- Don't throw away your ATM receipts at the ATM location. Keep them to reconcile your account, then dispose of them properly when you get home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings when using the ATM. If it is late at night, try to use a machine that is well lit and avoid dark, remote locations.
- Always make sure to retrieve your ATM card from the machine when the transaction is complete.
- Be aware of the person behind you. Make sure no one can see you entering your PIN or how much money you withdraw.
- Review your statement promptly to ensure all transactions are accurate. Report any discrepancies immediately.
- Destroy old ATM cards immediately after receiving your replacement cards.
In addition to the types of ATM fraud that most of us are now aware of, there are two new types of fraud that can clean out your account quickly -- card withholding and skimming.
Card withholding occurs when your card gets stuck in the ATM, you can't get it out, and you leave the card in the ATM planning to contact the financial institution the next morning. When you call you find that the card was not stuck in the ATM. What happens is that thieves put a substance into the ATM card slot which will cause your card to stick inside the ATM. They leave the ATM and wait for someone to attempt to use it. They then get in line behind you and try to watch you enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). This is very common at drive-up ATMs where the user may not be paying attention to other people or cars nearby.
The thieves even go so far as to put up a sign on the ATM stating: "If your card gets stuck, enter your PIN three separate times to retrieve it." This gives them three tries to watch you enter your PIN. After you leave frustrated, and you're planning to contact the ATM owner the next morning, they remove your card with a pair of pliers. They can then use your card at other ATMs and Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals.
Skimming is done at businesses that offer Point-of-Sale (POS) devices for you to pay with your ATM card, such as gas stations. The thieves convince an employee to allow them to connect a lap top computer to the POS machine. The lap top is usually stored under the counter where the POS device is located. When you swipe your card in the POS device to make a payment the information on the magnetic strip on your ATM card is copied and loaded onto a disk. Thieves may also install a hidden video camera that records you entering your PIN. They then match the magnetic information to the PIN and access your accounts.
- Before inserting your ATM card into an ATM inspect the card slot for any residue.
- If there is residue, don't use that ATM. If there is a notice on the ATM about entering your PIN several times, don't use that ATM.
- Always cover your hand when entering your PIN: if the thieves don't have your PIN, they can't access your account.
Actions for Fraud Victims
If you suspect fraud, it is important to act quickly to minimize potential damage and your own liability. It is important to keep a detailed account of conversations you have with authorities and financial institutions.
Credit Bureaus. Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies --Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Ask that your account include a statement referencing the possibility of fraud.
Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently -- by phone and in writing. Monitor your accounts closely for any further fraudulent activity.
Law Enforcement. Report the crime to police with jurisdiction in your case. Provide any documentation that you have collected. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the phone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
Financial Institutions. If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, contact the institution to report the crime. Put stop payments on appropriate outstanding checks. Close your checking and savings accounts and open new accounts. If your ATM card is stolen or compromised, get a new card and PIN. When choosing a PIN, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your Social Security number, your date of birth, license number or street address.
U.S. Postal Service. Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the post office or has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud.
Social Security Administration. Call to report fraudulent use of your Social Security number.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Call to see if another license was issued in your name. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office. Request a driver's license number different than your Social Security number if available in your state.
Civil Courts. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your impostor, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the state Department of Justice and the FBI.
Check Cashing Fraud
This guide provides tips for protecting yourself against check cashing fraud. Check cashing fraud occurs when individuals use information taken from your checks, or the checks themselves, to access your accounts and commit fraudulent acts. By following these simple guidelines you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Tips for protecting yourself against check cashing fraud
- Always safeguard your checks. Do not leave your checks out in an open area. Never leave your checks in your car or out on your desk at the office.
- Keep your blank checks and canceled checks in a safe place. Put them in a vault or other secure location. Destroy old blank checks if you are not going to use them.
- Limit the amount of personal information printed on the checks to your name and address. Use plain designed verify your identity, such as your driver's license number, social security number, and secret codes. Don't have this information printed on your checks.
- Don't leave your bill payments sitting in an unlocked mailbox for pickup. Many credit thieves will steal bills from rural mailboxes at the end of driveways so they can get your account information, checking information, and even your checks. Go to the Post Office directly or use a curbside USPS mailbox (the blue metal ones) and drop your bills in the slot rather than using less secure street mailboxes.
- Be discreet when writing checks in public places. Write your checks carefully and leave no space in which figures or words can be inserted.
- When you make an error in writing a check, be sure to destroy the check or write "canceled" across it and store it with your other canceled checks.
- If your checks are lost or stolen, report it immediately to your financial institution.
- Reconcile your monthly statements as soon as you can to ensure all transactions are accurate. Contact us immediately if you do not receive it when expected. Be sure to contact your institution within that time frame to ensure that proper attention is given to reconciling the problem.
- When you reorder checks, mark your calendar. If you don't receive your checks within 15 working days, contact your financial institution immediately to inquire as to the status of the order.
- Consider alternatives to check writing. For instance, paying by phone, online, billpay or setting up automatic payments. Fewer checks mean fewer theft opportunities. the bogus website is to deceive you into entering your personal information so the scammer's can steal your identity and commit crimes in your name.
Debit and Credit Card Fraud
Debit and credit card fraud generally occurs when cards or card numbers are compromised. By following these simple guidelines your potential for loss can be minimized.
Tips for protecting yourself against card fraud
- Keep a list of all your cards including the account number and phone number to the issuing company.
- Review your card statement as soon as possible. Match charges with your receipts to ensure all charges are yours and are for the correct amount.
- Always sign a new card immediately.
- When making a purchase with a card, make sure you get the card back and the receipt. Check the receipt for accuracy.
- When using a card at a restaurant or store, make sure that all blank lines are marked through so that no one can change the final amount.
- Never sign blank card receipts.
- Only travel with the cards you plan on using.
- Never give the account number of the card over the phone unless you initiate the call.
- When making an order over the telephone, try to avoid using a cordless phone. Cordless phones messages can be easily intercepted by devices as unsophisticated as baby monitors and police scanners.
- Do not write the PIN for the account on the card.
Internet Security - Phishing Scams
Phishing is an internet scam in which e-mail spam or pop-up messages are used to deceive you into divulging personal or financial information over the internet. Phishers will send you an email or a pop-up message that appears to be from a company that you deal with – your credit card company, credit union or a government agency. The message usually requests that you update or validate account information and it will direct you to a website that looks just like the legitimate organization's website, but it isn't. The purpose of the bogus website is to deceive you into entering your personal information so the scammer's can steal your identity and commit crimes in your name.
Protect yourself against "Phishing Scams"
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don't click on the link in the message, either. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company's correct Web address yourself. In any case, don't cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different sites.
- Never give your personal information via e-mail. Maine Family Federal Credit Union will never request personal information via email.
- If you want to update your information, go directly to our website by opening a new browser window, and typing www.mainefamilyfcu.com in the address bar.
Never go to our web site by clicking a link in an e-mail.
- When entering personal account information, verify that you are on a secure website. If the website is secure, you will find "https" in the address and a closed padlock in your browser's toolbar.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files.
Phone Security - Vishing Scams
Vishing is a scam similar to Phishing, the scam involves sending a spam email or pop-up message telling you that your account has been compromised and will instruct you to call a phone number to verify your account information. An official sounding automated message will ask you to enter your personal financial information such as your 16-digit credit card number. Some of these scams involve a telephone call to the victim directly in which the caller already has your credit card number but asks you to verify the valuable three digit security code.
Protect yourself against "Vishing Scams"
- Never give your personal information over the phone. If you feel a call is suspicious, call the company directly to verify the authenticity of the call.
- Beware of organizations asking for charitable donations. If you want to donate money, contact the organization yourself to make sure that your money is going to the appropriate place.