Identity Theft Awareness
Many Americans face some kind of identity theft every day. It can be a scary and confusing process to clean up the mess that has been made to your credit report, medical records, etc. With this in mind, we've compiled some helpful information about identity theft to help navigate the difficult situation should you find yourself a victim.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a criminal offense that is used to refer to all types of misconduct in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Common Forms of Identity Theft
Thieves can place devices on ATMs, gas pumps, and other machines that capture people’s card information.
- When using at ATM make sure nothing looks out of place on the machine. Try jiggling the card reader. if it can be easily removed, alert the financial institution or the police.
- When paying at the gas pump, be vigilant and make sure nothing on the pump looks loose or recently replaced. Some gas stations have security tape on their pumps. If the tape is broken or cut, don't use that pump.
Thieves remove mail out of your trash such as pre-approved credit card offers. These can then be used to fraudulently open lines of credit in your name.
- The simplest way to protect against mail theft is by shredding your sensitive documents before you throw them away. Document shredders can be purchased and most office supply stores or take advantage of CBC's Shred Days where members can bring their documents to be securely shredded.
Thieves can send emails or pop-up messages that resemble a bank or credit card company asking you to verify your personal information and send it back to them.
- If you receive an email that seems suspicious, do not click on anything and delete the email.
- Some emails look pretty official and can easily be mistaken for the real thing. Just remember, generally companies will never contact you via email asking for your personal information. Anytime you receive an email like that, do not reply and call the company to ask about the validity of the email.
- If you receive an email that offers something that seems too good to be true, it's often because it is too good to be true!
Restaurants & Bars
Thieves working in restaurants and bars can swipe your credit card information using a special storage device when processing your card for payment.
- Try and always keep an eye on your card when a worker takes it for payment. If you are concerned about letting go of your card, use cash.
What can I do to prevent identity theft?
While identity theft is not completely avoidable, there are steps you can take to help lower your chances of falling victim, including:
- Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number or account numbers on publicly accessible sites.
- When using an ATM, make sure no one has the ability to see you enter your PIN.
- Adopt an attitude of healthy skepticism toward websites that offer prizes or giveaways.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, checks, bank statements, expired debit/ATM cards, etc.
- If you do not have a secure mailbox, request a vacation hold on mail if you will be traveling.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you've initiated the contact or know who you're dealing with.
- Before you dispose of any electronic device, get rid of all the personal information it stores.
- Do not open files, click on links or download programs sent by strangers.
- Always read privacy policies.
- Check your credit report yearly. You can do so at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year, meaning you can check your credit report for free up to three times a year.
What do I need to do if my identity is compromised?
It is important to take action immediately after you realize your identity has been compromised. If you have CBC's Security Plus Checking account, please call 805.988.2151 to file a claim so that a recovery advocate can be appointed to you immediately. If you do not have a Security Plus Checking account, you should:
- Call the company where you know fraud occurred.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a report with your local police department.