Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses another individual's personal information to take on his or her identity. Criminals then use key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming, complicated task of regaining financial health.
At MidAmerica National Bank, we know we can't prevent identity theft entirely. But we can help increase awareness of the issue and educate you about minimizing your risk of identity theft. Below are some common examples of methods used to steal your identity, followed by some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
If you believe you've been sent a fraudulent email, please forward it to us at email@example.com.
Check Washing: If an identity thief gets a hold of a check you wrote, he or she may dip your check in acetone, which washes the ink off so they can write it for a higher amount.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: Deposit outgoing mail in secured mailboxes. If you order checks, ask to have them sent to your bank. Do not leave checks unattended in your mailbox. Review bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges.
Dumpster Diving: Just like the name suggests, dumpster diving occurs when thieves sift through garbage bins, searching for personal information.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: Guard your trash from theft. Shred credit applications, insurance forms, checks and bank statements, credit offers - just about anything that has your personal information on it.
Key Logging: Passwords, email, credit card information… anything you type is at risk of being tracked by key logging. If a hacker manages to install software or a physical device onto your computer, key logging can be used to record every stroke you make on your keyboard.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: Never open e-mail from an unknown source. Install virus detection software, and update the software periodically.
Mail Fraud: When identity thieves steal your mail to obtain your personal information, it's considered mail fraud. If your mail contains pre-approved credit card applications, the individual may attempt to apply for credit in your name.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: Remove mail from your mailbox as soon as you can after it's been delivered, or use a post office box. To ensure that you know what credit has been taken out in your name, order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year [TransUnion, (800) 888-4213; Experian, (888) 397-3742; Equifax, (800) 685-1111].
Phishing: Computer hackers "phish" the Internet, looking for anyone who will bite at their bait -- often an email impersonating a reputable company, your internet service provider or even your financial institution asking for your logins, passwords or credit card info. Hackers may use logos to make the email appear very legitimate.How to help avoid becoming a victim: Never divulge your Social Security number, bank account numbers or other personal information over the Internet.
Shoulder Surfing: Identity thieves use shoulder surfing to try to get your PIN, usually when you're using an ATM or perhaps at a store using your debit card. They might literally hang close to your shoulder, or they might be watching from afar with binoculars.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: Use your body as a shield to block the view of anyone who might be trying to observe your PIN. Change your PINs periodically.
Skimming: Your personal information can be "skimmed" by anyone who handles your credit card out of your sight -- most commonly at a restaurant or gas station. If the employee of the business you are patronizing has a handheld magnetic card reader, he or she may retain your card's information with one quick swipe.
How to help avoid becoming a victim: If possible, swipe your card yourself. Otherwise, make sure that your credit card stays within view during all transactions and get it back as soon as possible. If you notice unauthorized charges on any of your credit card statements, report them right away.
If you suspect fraudulent activity, report it to your bank and the fraud units of the three major credit bureaus immediately: TransUnion, (800) 680-7289; Experian, (888) 397-3742; Equifax (800) 525-6285.
MidAmerica National Bank is always willing to help if you have any questions about identity theft or if you suspect you've become a victim. Contact our customer service department toll-free at 1-877-647-5050.
MidAmerica is staffed with individuals who are prepared to handle identity theft concerns.