Protecting Your Identity

Protecting Your Identity

With impressive stealth and steed, a thief can compromise your identity and inflict irreparable damage within just a short period of time. It can happen literally before you even get your next monthly credit card or checking account statement. The threat of having your identity compromised has dramatically increased. In 2010, more than 8 million people became identity theft victims, with estimated losses well over $36 billion. The average cost to restore your identity can be as much as $700; sometimes, the costs can be staggering depending on the severity and extent of the individual cases. First & Farmers National Bank wants to educate its customers and the public in general to help put a stop to this horrific invasion of privacy. Let's learn more about identity theft, the different types of identity theft, and find ways to protect yourself. 

What is Identity Theft?

There are many different types of identity theft, and the list just keeps growing. Financial Identity Theft occurs when an impostor obtains someone's personal identifying information (PII) and uses it for financial gain; such as obtaining lines of credit, credit cards, financial institution account takeover or enlistment, or even signing up for utilities.

Criminal Identity Theft occurs when a thief uses someone's PII to elude law enforcement, and even fulfilling child support obligations. Oftentimes, the criminal identity thief is using someone's identity to obtain employment or credit because their own past would prohibit them passing background checks.

Sometimes, identity thieves will use another person's identity to obtain medical services or goods, and even more, they may use it to make claims for medical services. Medical Identity Theft can result in false medical records or enormous claims being added to a person's existing medical charts.

Should someone's identity be stolen in order to obtain employment, governmental benefits, or even tax refunds, this is a form of Governmental Identity Theft. Usually, the victim learns of this when their rax return is held by the state, or when wages are levied by the court or government.

One form of identity theft that can affect a business is Corporate Identity Theft. This is when someone manipulates a business's identifying information in order to commit fraud or other crimes in the business's name.

How does your information become compromised?

Banks are often faced with the problem of ATM Skimmers. Individuals are putting skimming machines in the slot of ATM machines that will read the card's numbers electronically. They oftentimes are also housing a small camera that records the account holder's hand movements while punching in their PIN numbers. The skimmer is then duplicating the card, account, and PIN numbers on a separate card or using the numbers online to order products or services. One way to avoid ATM Skimming, is by being observant of the ATM Machine. Look for a tiny box or an insert in the card reader. If you notice anything unusual, alert the owner of the ATM machine, and do not use your card at that machine. Always use ATM machines at locations you trust, such as a bank or an ATM that is in a very public and well-lit place. Thieves will less likely be able to put a skimmer on an ATM that is in a highly visible, populated area without drawing attention. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

Vishing attacks happen when individuals receive telephone calls, either live or automated, to obtain personal identifying information. Oftentimes, the caller will use a very viable, respectable company's name such as a bank or even a government agency like the IRS, and ask for social security or account numbers. Sometimes, they will ask you to call an anonymous number and leave your account number or other personal identifying information. They use fear tactics to lure you in; they may say that your credit has been compromised and you need to immediately contact them or ask you to verify a credit card number because they fear it has been duplicated.

Phishing scams take place, generally, through e-mail. They will re-direct you to a website that may look identical to the business or person they are trying to impersonate. Most times, when you are redirected, a pop-up will have fields asking for account numbers, social security numbers or more information. 

Text messaging scams are now on the rise. Hackers are obtaining lists from mobile phone companies, and sending out text messages saying alarming things such as that your card has been blocked, or that your accounts have been compromised. Most often, they will ask that the individual call a toll-free number and change PIN numbers or verify account numbers.

Good old-fashioned methods such as dumpster diving and stealing occur when purses or wallets are stolen, mailboxes are rummaged, bank and credit card statements are accessed, and pre-authorized credit card offers are accepted. Boxes of checks can also be intercepted through the mailboxes.

Online methods of obtaining PII can include: Online Dating Scams, Social Media Identity Assumption, Automatic Delivery Options for Weight loss aides, and even Online Penny Auctions. As technology advances, so does the effort of identity thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Below is a listing of simple things that you can do in order to avoid becoming a target of identity theft.

  • Keep your Social Security card and number in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe. Never carry it in your wallet or purse.
  • Unless someone must have it to verify your identity, do not give it out. Find out what that person or entity is going to do with the information, and figure out if you think they are trustworthy.
  • Store your laptop in a secure place. Change your passwords often and do not allow passwords to be "remembered" by websites. Keep virus and malware protection up to date on your PC, laptops, smart phones, etc.
  • Be cautious of postings on social networking sites. Do not alert potential thieves to when you may not be at home. Do not give "daily routine" updates or share any more personal information that you must. If you do not have a profile on these sites, but someone says they found you, verify the information that is out there, and then report it to the authorities immediately.
  • Never loan a credit or debit card to someone else. Most often, they cannot get one themselves if they are asking for yours.
  • Guard your credit and debit cards, as well as any correlating PIN numbers. Do not ever write a PIN number on the debit card or keep it stored near your card.
  • Scrutinize your monthly statements. Go over any and all statements as soon as you receive them.
  • Empty your mailbox daily. If you are on vacation, have your mail held at the post office. Do not put mail with checks or bills in the mailbox to await pickup. Open every single piece of mail that comes in your name. This way, you will know if anyone has an account opened using your name or account numbers. Shred credit card offers and anything that you no longer need that has PII.
  • When ordering online, ensure that the site offers payment through a secured site. Do not ever give credit card or personal identifying information over an unsecure site.
  • If anyone calls or texts you and asks you to share personal identifying information, do not give it out to them. If they are pretending to be a trusted business or person, just hang up and call the number listed in the phone book; not the one on your caller ID.
  • Do not ever put your social security number on checks.
  • Do not use predictable passwords. Even though a security question asks you for your mother's maiden name, you may answer it with another word that no one else would know.
  • Request a credit report from the three major credit companies annually.
  • Keep your children's social security number and personal identifying information in safe locations as well.

Remember that a bank already has your account number on file. Banks will not randomly call you and ask you to enter any account information into a system or ask you to give that information out. If anyone asks you to give them your account number, DON'T!

What do you do if you find your identity has been compromised?

If someone has stolen your wallet, immediately call your local authorities. Then, contact your credit card companies to report the cards as lost or stolen. Alert your bank that your cards and checks have been stolen. Your bank will put stop payments on the checks that have been stolen, and also list your debit card as stolen or lost. You may also need to contact your Department of Motor Vehicles to alert them that your Driver's License was compromised.

If your social security number is being used, or you feel it has been compromised, contact your local Social Security Administration office. Also, contact the three credit unions to place red flags on your accounts. Ask them to alert you of any sudden changes in your credit scores. Also, if you have any passwords set up for online banking or even mobile banking, immediately change those. In most cases of restoring identity theft, you will be required to have a police report, so immediately contact the authorities if you see anything fishy going on with any of your accounts or credit reports.

To report Identity Theft, you will need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338. Be diligent in copying any correspondence and keeping track of all losses you have incurred due to the identity theft.

The costs and efforts involved in restoring your credit can be heartbreaking and very extensive. Identity thieves can do a large amount of devastation to your credit in a short amount of time. It can be a long, hard line to tow when trying to restore the upstanding credit you have worked and labored for so long to create. Be aware, and guard your identity just like…well, your life.


Click on any of these links to find out more information on Identity Theft, or use them should you feel your Personal Identifying Information has been compromised:

Federal Trade Commission


Federal Trade Commission Complaint Center


Federal Trade Commission - Report ID Theft 


United States Department of Justice


Identity Theft Resource Center/Prevention & Survival


Social Security Administration


FDIC: Identity Theft


Better Business Bureau

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