There are countless email scams that exist solely to obtain your personal information. The crude, poorly worded and misspelled email scams that used to exist have been replaced with sophisticated, realistic-looking messages that appear to be from banks and credit card companies. These email messages try to link you to another site in attempt to get your personal information, such as social security number, credit card number, password, etc. This information is then used to steal your financial credit and existing account balances.
The "Rule of Thumb" is:
- DO NOT give your personal information by email, phone or letter unless you initiated this sharing of information, NOT if someone requests it from you.
- When in doubt, contact the requesting bank or credit card company to verify.
- No bank or credit card company will solicit your personal information through an email request.
- Given the difficulty of investigating or attempting to prosecute individuals sending these email scams, we ask that you NOT fall victim to them in the first place.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, identity theft is one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes in the nation. Identity thieves try to obtain your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and social security number. They often get this information by going through your trash or taking items from your mailbox. The thieves then use this information to access your current financial accounts, open new accounts in your name or charge items or services to you. Your best defense against identity theft is to be vigilant with your personal and financial information.
Keep Information Confidential
- Do not provide anyone with your personal information over the phone, internet or through the mail unless you have initiated the contact or you know who you are dealing with.
- Monitor your financial account billing and reporting cycles. If you do not receive a bill or bank statement on time, follow up with that institution.
- Watch out for mail crimes. Promptly pick up your mail and put outgoing mail in a U.S. Postal Service collection box, especially if the mail contains checks or other personal or financial information.
- Purchase a shredder and shred items like charge receipts, credit card applications and bank statements before throwing them away.
- Order a copy of your credit report each year and notify credit bureaus immediately if you find errors.
- Be diligent in reviewing bank or credit card statements to see if there is fraudulent activity occurring.
- Cancel credit cards that you do not use on a regular basis so you do not have numerous lines of credit, leaving you more vulnerable.
- Be creative with personal identification numbers (PINS) and other passwords. Do not use things that can easily be tied to you, such as a birthday or a maiden name.
- Do not carry your social security card in your purse or wallet unless absolutely necessary.
The U.S. Department of Justice recommends the SCAM approach:
S: Be stingy about giving personal information.
C: Check your financial information regularly.
A: Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.
M: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
Additional Security Measures:
- You can also call the main credit reporting agencies to have your name taken off the list for pre-approved offers by calling 1 (888) 567-8688.
- If you discover that you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately take the following steps:
- Contact the fraud department for each of the major credit bureaus.
- Contact the creditors for accounts that have been tampered with or opened falsely.
- File a police report.
Prevent Mail Crimes
Mail theft is a crime that often leads to identity theft. It is a particular problem in locations that have group mailboxes, such as apartments and condominium complexes. The following tips will help you avoid becoming a victim of such crimes.
Preventing Mail Theft
Preventing Check and Credit Fraud
Bad checks and credit card fraud affects everyone, resulting in monetary losses, increased consumer costs and the use of limited law enforcement and prosecution resources. The single most important action you can take to prevent such crimes is to "know your customer."
During a check or credit card transaction, the merchant or seller is encouraged to:
- Ask to see proper identification.
- Make sure the address on the identification matches the check address.
- Never accept an altered check, a check with erasures or written-over amounts.
- Compare the signature on the card with the one on the sales receipt.