Understanding Identity Theft
Understanding identity scams and how they work
If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably received an email or call saying that suspicious activity is suspected on your account. This is all too common an occurrence these days and is just one of many identity theft scams out there today. While these scams may seem overwhelming, even legitimate, there are several steps you can take to help protect yourself and your business.
Step 1: Understanding Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information (Name/Address/Social Security Number) to commit fraud or other crimes without your knowledge. Fraud is generally defined as an intentional, yet isolated, attempt to steal money from an existing account, such as a charge on a stolen credit card. Listed below are several ways/scams that a criminal may use to acquire the information necessary to commit identity theft:
- Stolen mail (from P.O. Box or home)
- Lost or stolen purse/wallet
- Discarded bills/credit card statements
- Internet or telephone/text messaging scams
- Personal information disclosed on the internet
Step 2: Understanding Scams and How They Work
Phishing is a form of Internet piracy that seeks to obtain your personal financial information. Scammers seek account numbers, passwords, Social Security Numbers and other confidential information they can use to empty bank accounts and deplete credit card limits. This information is typically obtained when the customer receives an email appearing to come from a reputable and recognized business such as a financial institution or government agency. The email may have language such as “Immediate action required,” or “Please contact immediately.” The customer will then be instructed to click on a button to reply or be directed to the institution’s website. This will be a fake website created to mirror the real thing. In some instances, the criminal will use the company’s true website in which a pop-up window will appear collecting your financial information. Most times you will be asked to update account information and/or provide information for verification. Most frequently asked for are Social Security Numbers, passwords, account numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), mother’s maiden name, place/date of birth, etc.
Bank of Okolona will never ask for this type of information via email.
Variations of Phishing
Vishing scams involve the customer receiving an email, supposedly from a reputable source, with an urgent request to call the phone number provided. You would then be asked to provide sensitive information either by voice or by entering digits. Smishing scams employ text messages that appear to come from legitimate sources stating an urgent response is required. This will instruct the customer to click on a link provided and input personal/financial information.
Credit Repair Scam/Identity Theft Protection
Credit repair scams offer to erase negative information from your credit history. The scam artists who promote these services cannot actually help repair your credit. Be aware when asked to lie on a loan/credit application, obtain an Employer identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretense or misrepresent your Social Security Number. Each of these actions is in violation of federal law. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warnings stating some companies claiming to be identity theft prevention services are scam artists simply trying to obtain your financial information. The FTC has advised consumers to never provide personal information over the phone/online unless you are familiar with the business or institution requesting it. If the consumer is uncertain of the legitimacy of the request, inquire with the Better Business Bureau before providing any information.
Account Update Scam
An email is received with a message from the “Systems Administrator” requiring immediate maintenance on your account or to verify account information. If the email provides a link, NEVER CLICK ON THE LINK.
Visa/Mastercard "Unusual Activity" Scam
A call is received from someone claiming to be a customer service representative from Visa or MasterCard (or any other card). The criminal will advise the customer they have noticed unusual activity on their account. They will typically ask for the three digit security code from your card. Never provide this information unless you have initiated the contact. If you are uncertain of the validity of such a call, call your Bank of Okolona branch.
The act criminals engage in by sifting through trash of businesses/residences seeking to acquire confidential and financial information about consumers. Always shred any documentation containing sensitive or financial information.
This involves unsolicited emails (and letters) sent to individuals offering the potential victim something of value for assistance in transferring millions of dollars to a U.S. bank (usually a percentage of the money transferred). These are always scams. DO NOT RESPOND.
Free Credit Report Scam
Most “free credit report” emails are scams. The criminal seeks to obtain Social Security Numbers and other personal/financial information. Inquire with the Better Business Bureau about the company. Always be cautious if you did not initiate the inquiry for a credit report. Bank of Okolona will NEVER ask for this information via email.
This scan occurs in various manners. Some of the more common ways: - A store employee/server completes a valid sale then captures a second unauthorized swipe on a portable device (usually kept in their pocket) before returning the card to the cardholder – A skimming device is added to the front of an ATM/gas pump and captures the credit card information as the consumer attempts to use the machine (pay attention to any abnormalities on ATM/gas pump) – A skimming device is added inside an ATM/gas pump and captures the card information and many times a camera is set up on capture the card holder’s personal identification number (PIN)