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Preventing Identity Theft
Identity theft is a crime by which someone wrongfully gains access to your personal information such as your bank and credit card account numbers, income, Social Security Number (SSN), driver's license number, personal identification number (PIN) or password, or your name, address, and phone numbers.
An identity thief obtains some piece of your personal information and uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft.
What happens next? They use this information to obtain loans, open new checking accounts, rent property, make purchases, or use your identity to commit more serious crimes. You are now an identity theft victim.
We are taking this opportunity to inform you about identity theft and fraud (including online schemes such as phishing and pharming) and to provide you with the appropriate guidance to lower your risk of becoming an identity theft victim, and steps to be taken if you are an identity theft victim.
Identity theft is defined as a fraud committed or attempted using the identifying information of another person without authority. Identifying information means any name or number that may be used (alone or in combination with) to identify a person such as:
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information. Four out of five identity theft victims have no idea how an identity thief obtained their personal information, but some of the more common methods include:
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they may:
Protect yourself and your identity by monitoring the balances of your financial accounts and looking for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Often, there are no warning signs that identity theft has occurred. However, some reasons for concern are:
To help prevent becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft, follow these recommended guidelines:
An increasing number of identity thefts directed at consumers are being committed online. Consequently, it's very important for you to learn how to spot fraudulent e-mail messages (also known as phishing and pharming) and how to lower your risk of identity theft while using the Internet.
The term phishing (pronounced fishing) refers to techniques used by identity thieves to "fish" for personal information in a "pond" of unsuspecting Internet users in order to steal personal information. In a phishing scam, an identity thief creates a counterfeit e-mail, which to you may look like an official communication from your financial institution or other service provider. The goal of the scam is to trick you into divulging your personal information such as your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, passwords, or account related information in order for the identity thief to purchase goods or obtain money from your account(s).
Unauthorized use of a customer's account and asset information obtained through phishing is also referred to as "account hijacking". Please be aware that The Provident Bank will NEVER ask you for personal information in an e-mail.
Pharming (pronounced farming) is a technique used by dishonest individuals and companies to obtain important personal and financial information without your knowledge. It is similar to phishing except that the information is collected without you needing to click on a link contained in an e-mail.
As with phishing, the primary purpose is to gain access to your personal information.
Similar to phishing, pharmers send seemingly authentic and urgent e-mails to potential victims or users stating that account information needs to be updated immediately. The difference from phishing is that the pharming e-mail installs a small software program on the intended victim's computer. When a user tries to go to the real website, the program redirects the browser to the pharmer's fake website. It then asks the user to update information such as log-ons, PIN codes or other sensitive information. Computer users that do not click on the e-mail links may still be subject to this attack because pharming directs the browser to the fake pharmer website..
Below are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud:
The following measures can help protect against identity theft:
If you suspect that your personal information has been used in a fraudulent manner, take the following steps to prevent further usage and damage:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports.
Call the toll-free fraud number shown below for each of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report ("one-call" fraud alert). This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge.
To report fraud or to check your credit report, you can contact the major credit bureaus as follows:
Write: P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Log on to: www.equifax.com
Call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Write: P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013-9532
Log on to: www.experian.com
Write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Log on to: www.transunion.com
Once you receive your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries you did not initiate, accounts you did not open, and unexplained charges or credit advances on your legitimate accounts. You also should check that information such as your Social Security Number, address, name (including initials, prefixes and suffixes) and employer are correct. Inaccuracies in this information may simply be due to typographical errors, however, they should be reported to the credit bureau(s) as soon as possible by telephone and in writing.
The "one-call" fraud alert process used to notify all three major credit bureaus of fraud only works for the initial placement of your fraud alert. Requests for renewals of your fraud alert or requests for additional credit reports must be made separately at each of the three major credit bureaus.
2. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Follow these simple steps:
Credit accounts include all accounts with financial institutions, credit card companies, other lenders, phone companies, utilities or other service providers.
Notify your creditor's of the fraud via telephone followed by a written notification which will ensure protection of your right to dispute fraudulent charges and may limit your liability for these items. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so as to document your notification responsibilities and the creditor's receipt of your notice.
If there are fraudulent charges, ask the company about forms for disputing those transactions. If your credit card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the card as soon as you can. Request a new card with a new PIN.
If your checks or ATM/debit cards have been stolen, counterfeited or misused, close the account(s) and request a warning be placed on your account(s). Most banks will investigate and help you in resolving forged checks or unauthorized transactions originating from their financial institution. However, you are required to take reasonable care of your bank account(s) and access devices, and make the financial institution aware of any suspicious activity as soon as you become aware of it. You may be held responsible for the unauthorized transaction if you fail to notify the bank in a timely manner. Contact your bank for more specific information.
You may also want to contact the following major check verification companies to ask that retailers who use their databases not accept your checks:
Certegy, Inc.: 1-800-437-5120
ChexSystems, Inc.: 1-888-478-6536
TeleCheck: 1-800-710-9898 or 1-800-927-0188
You can also call Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN) at 1-800-262-7771 to find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name.
Once the identity theft dispute claim has been resolved, request that the creditor provide a letter stating that they have closed the account(s) and discharged the disputed debt. This letter will serve as proof that fraud has occurred and that the matter has been resolved.
Request that your bank notify the company they use for check verification services (such as ChexSystems, Inc.) of the fraudulent activity. This notification will alert retailers not to accept checks drawn on your old account.
3. File a report with your local police department.
When filing a police report, provide as much information as you can about the crime, including dates of the identity theft, the fraudulent accounts and the alleged identity thief (if known). Bring any records or documentation that you have pertaining to the crime with you; this will assist you in filing a complete and accurate report.
Keep a copy of the police report. You may need to provide proof of fraudulent activity to creditors and/or financial institutions. If you can't get a copy, at a minimum, record the report number and the location where and date when the report was filed.
4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Filing your identity theft complaint with the FTC provides important information that can help law enforcement track down identity thieves and stop them from victimizing other consumers like you.
The FTC also can refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and companies for further action. The FTC enters the information you provide into a secure database. To file a complaint: Contact the Federal Trade Commission at:
Call: 1-877 ID THEFT (438-4338)
Hearing Impaired tty: 1-866-653-4261
Write to: Identity Theft Clearing House, FTC
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Log on to: www.consumer.gov/idtheft
5. Contact the U.S. Postal Service.
If you know or suspect your mail has been stolen, contact your local post office. Address and phone numbers can be found in your phone book, by calling the phone company's information line (411), or via the internet at www.usps.com.
It is likely that your employer and financial institution will need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other private businesses may ask you for your SSN to perform a credit check, such as when you apply for a loan. Sometimes, however, they simply want your SSN for general record-keeping. If someone asks for your SSN, ask the following questions:
Remember identity theft awareness and prevention can save you needless hours of turmoil resulting from misused personal information. Taking proactive measures to limit access to your confidential information will help you to better avoid being a victim of this new category of crime.
The Provident Bank may notify you if it has reason to believe that your sensitive personal information has either been stolen or otherwise compromised. Remember, we will NEVER ask you to provide your sensitive personal information when we contact you.
Information provided in this ToolKit is based in part on the Federal Trade Commissions publication entitled " Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft".