24 Hour ID Theft Hotline: 1-855-443-3489
Hotline is answered 7 days per week, including holidays
How can Identity Theft happen?
ID Theft can occur in daily consumer transactions in a variety of ways, for example:
Skimming – This occurs when you give your credit or debit card to a waiter at a restaurant, store, etc., and the waiter disappears with your card momentarily. While out of sight, the waiter slides your card through an illegal device the size of a pager, known as a skimmer. The skimmer captures and stores data contained on the magnetic strip of your card. The information from the skimmer is later uploaded to a computer. It is then downloaded onto a blank card that becomes a perfect counterfeit of yours. Since your card is not actually stolen, it could take up to a month before you notice the unauthorized account transactions.
Mail Theft – Don’t mail bill payments from your residential mail box. A single theft will reveal your bank and checking account numbers along with your personal identifying information. Instead, place all bill payments in a US Postal Service mailbox. If possible, use a post office box to receive your bills and other mail. This makes it more difficult for thieves to associate account numbers with you and your home address.
Dumpster Diving – If a business discards papers (loan applications, receipts, etc) without shredding them, a dumpster diver may retrieve this information from the business’ trash container, then sell or use this information to obtain credit. Also, if the consumer does not cross-cut shred their documents that contain personal identifying information (pre-approved offers of credit, etc.), a thief may steal this from the victim’s trash.
Purse or Wallet is Lost or Stolen – If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, you must take immediate action. First contact your credit card issuers to inform them of the situation and cancel your credit cards. Call your bank to cancel your Debit / ATM card and/or checks. Next, report the incident to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the incident occurred.
When internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information, it’s called phishing. Don’t reply to email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links within them either – even if the message seems to be from an organization you trust. It isn’t. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels.
Examples of Phishing Messages
You open an email or text, and see a message like this:
“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
“Our records indicate that your account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive your refund.”
The senders are phishing for your information so they can use it to commit fraud.
Delete email and text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.). Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email or text.
The messages may appear to be from organizations you do business with – banks, for example. They might threaten to close your account or take other action if you don’t respond.
Don’t reply, and don’t click on links or call phone numbers provided in the message, either. These messages direct you to spoof sites – sites that look real but whose purpose is to steal your information so a scammer can run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
Area codes can mislead, too. Some scammers ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund.” But a local area code doesn’t guarantee that the caller is local.
If you’re concerned about your account or need to reach an organization you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card.
You can take steps to avoid a phishing attack:
- Use trusted security software and set it to update automatically. In addition, use these computer security practices.
- Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information.
- Only provide personal or financial information through an organization’s website if you typed in the web address yourself and you see signals that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call to confirm your billing address and account balances.
- Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
Forward phishing emails to email@example.com — and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To find out how to include it, type the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine.
You also can report phishing email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group — which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies — uses these reports to fight phishing.
If you might have been tricked by a phishing email:
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
- Visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft; there are steps you can take to minimize your risk