Your Security, Identity Theft

Posted: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | Posted by: Timothy Rozalski in IT Security

Identity theft is a growing problem and consumers need to take measures to protect themselves at all times.  Awareness is one of the best deterrents against fraud. Criminals can steal your identity in many ways, and are inventing new avenues every day.  Howard Bank takes real interest and responsibility in protecting our customers against fraud, and while we have many checks in place to detect deceitful activity, we both can only benefit from customers who are educated on the risks.

Avoid Identity Theft and Online Fraud

Scams such as Spoofing and Phishing to commit identity theft are becoming more prevalent. Identity theft involves the use of your personal information – your name, Social Security number, credit card, bank account numbers, or other identifying information – by someone else, to commit fraud or other crimes.

E-mail Phishing – Involves you receiving an e-mail, with something similar to “Official Information” or “Online Banking Problem” in the subject line, that appears to be from a legitimate company. It may even include the company’s logo and a link to an Internet address that looks appropriate. This e-mail directs you to link to a website where you are to supply account or personal information. This is not normal operating procedure for a reputable company and should be questioned.  Howard Bank will never send and e-mail that asks for information such as social security number, account number, or PIN.  Simply clicking the link could secretly install software on your computer. The software may infect your computer with a virus or record and transmit everything you type, including passwords. Additionally, the website you link to may be spoofing the correct Internet site.

Website Spoofing – Involves you trying to visit a website but accidentally keying-in or linking-to a different address. This may lead you to a website that mimics the legitimate site that you were trying to visit. The spoof Internet site may route whatever information you provide to criminals. This can include your account numbers, Social Security Numbers, credit card information, passwords and personal identification numbers. To make spoof sites seem legitimate, criminals may use the logos, graphics, names and code of the real company’s site. They also may attempt to fake the URL that appears in the address field at the top of your browser window and the padlock that appears in the lower right corner.

Skimming – Another method is called “skimming”. This method uses a small electronic device placed over or sometimes even inside a card slot at an ATM, gas pump, etc.  The device will capture information from a customer’s card, such as account numbers and PIN.  This recorded information is then used to create fraudulent cards.  If you notice anything out of ordinary, notify the machine’s owners immediately.

Sometimes, the scheme can be as simple as a phone call or letter asking you to update your information.  You should never give out personal information such as your PIN, social security number, or account number to unknown parties.  No reputable company will ever call you requesting this type of information.


Protect Yourself

First and foremost is education and awareness-be alert for the latest scams and how to prevent becoming a victim

Do not reply to an e-mail or pop-up message asking for personal or financial information. Legitimate companies will never ask for personal or financial information via an e-mail or pop-up message.

Don’t e-mail personal or financial information. If you initiate a transaction, look for indicators that the message is secured, which can be validated by a lock icon. Most e-mail programs do not provide confidentiality via encryption.

Use bookmarks to access known sites to avoid being lured to imposter sites.

Use updated anti-virus software. Some phishing emails contain viruses and software that can harm your computer.

Do not just throw documents containing personal information in the trash (such as statements, canceled checks, credit card bills, etc.) Shred unwanted documents that contain personal information.

Pay close attention to new charges on your credit card bill.  Review credit card and bank statements immediately for unauthorized charges and contact the company if statements are more than a few days late.

Don’t leave mail in your mailbox.

Memorize your Social Security number instead of carrying it with you.

Don’t write down your passwords, and don’t use birth dates or names of family members as passwords.  Never write down PIN numbers.

Take your receipts from ATMs, gas pumps, etc.

Report lost or stolen credit and debit cards immediately!

Protect the sensitive information contained in your wallet, checkbook, and other items at all times.

Take outgoing mail to the Post Office, or put it in a USPS drop box.

Check your credit report often (1-2 times a year)-a small fee can save you a huge problem down the road.

Always sign a debit card or credit card immediately.

Balance your statements.

If you receive a questionable call, tell the caller you are busy and ask what number you can reach them back on.

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