Identity Theft Protection: Safeguarding Your Personal and Account Information
Concerns over identity theft are mounting across the country, and RiverHills Bank is serious about ensuring your online banking experience is safe and secure. We are determined to continually implement the latest in Internet security protocols, as well as make you aware of fundamental safety measures you can take to protect yourself.
By being aware of the nature of the cyber crime and taking some basic precautions, you can considerably lessen your exposure to identity theft. To learn more on how you can keep from falling victim of identity theft, just take a few minutes to review the following information.
What is identity theft?
Essentially, identity theft is when someone steals your personal information with the intent of establishing credit under your name and, subsequently, charging goods and services to you. The type of personal information these criminals are after includes: your name, address and Social Security Number. Several tactics are commonly employed to procure this information:
- Obtaining discarded bills or statements
- Gaining possession of a lost or stolen wallet
- Stealing your mail
- Acquiring a copy of your credit report
- Through fraudulent and deceptive Internet scams
How does identity theft occur?
The techniques favored by criminals out to scam personal information from individuals are varied and continually evolving; however, we have identified and compiled a list of several commonly used methods:
Phishing (pronounced fishing) – This prevalent, new form of Internet piracy works just as the name suggests. Identity thieves are using bogus, yet often quite official-looking, emails to literally “fish” for your personal financial information. They are hoping to covertly land account numbers, passwords, Social Security Numbers, and other confidential information that will facilitate unfettered access to your checking accounts, savings accounts and credit cards.
A typical Phishing scam is set into motion like this. An email that appears to be from a reputable company, in most cases one you know and do business with, appears in your inbox. Financial institutions and government agencies are two sender “fronts” often employed by identity thieves. This email will likely warn you of a serious problem that requires your immediate attention. You should be wary of subject lines or phrases within the body of an email such as, “Immediate attention required,” or “Please contact us immediately about your account.”
The phony email will instruct you to click a button that you are led to believe will take you to the institution’s secure website; when in fact you are redirected to an imposter website designed to look virtually identical to the institution’s real website. Occasionally, you may even be sent to the institution’s actual website. With this scenario, a pop-up window will immediately appear and request personal financial information. Either way, they’re hoping to trick you into providing your personal data under the guise of “updating your account information” or “providing information for verification purposes”. Your Social Security Number, account number, password, or standard identity verification information, such as your mother’s maiden name, are the target.
IMPORTANT: You should never divulge this type of information online. In fact, you can rest assured that RiverHills Bank will never ask for this information online.
Nigerian E-mail Scam – This well-documented con may also be known as the “Advance Fee Fraud,” “419 Fraud” or “Help move money from my country” scam. It entails the target receiving a letter, fax or email that pertains to a business proposal or a request to move money to the target’s bank account. Ultimately, the target of the scam is asked to pay an upfront fee, extend credit, grant COD privileges or return “change” on a cashier’s check or money order. If you comply with any of these requests, you’ve been had.
False Identity Theft Protection/Credit Repair Scam – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a consumer alert warning consumers that many companies that claim to provide identity theft protection are actually charlatans seeking to obtain personal financial information. The FTC further encourages you not to convey personal information of this nature via phone or online, unless you are certain you’re dealing with a reputable business with which you are familiar.
Likewise, companies who claim to be able to expunge blemishes from your credit record are merely scam artists out to steal your personal financial information and have no influence on or access to your credit record.
“Your Account Needs to be Updated” Scam – Delivered via email, this scam appears to come from a “System Administrator” who claims to need to execute urgent maintenance. To do so, they say they need you to provide your account information and Social Security Number.
Special Visa®/MasterCard® Scam – This phone based scam is initiated by a call from a person posing as a Visa or MasterCard “representative” attempting to confirm unusual spending activity. In reality, they’re after the three-digit “Security Code” on the back of your credit card.
“Free Credit Report” Scam – Beware of “free credit report” emails, as they are almost always a scam. Their goal may be to glean your Social Security Number or to illegitimately bill you for services at a later date.
Sifting Through Your Trash For Information – Also called “Dumpster Diving”, identity thieves aren’t above rummaging through refuse to find confidential information. It is advisable to shred all documents with personal financial information prior to throwing them away.
Stealing from Mailboxes – Both incoming and outgoing mail are targets for identity thieves. Credit card offers, bank statements and credit card bills are of particular interest to would-be criminals.
How can you protect yourself against identity theft?
Awareness is the first step to preventing identity theft. If you will simply remember that there are identity thieves on the prowl, you’re less likely to become a victim. Beyond being wary, there are some steps you can take:
- Credit Report Monitoring – We recommend you request a credit file disclosure once a year from one or more of these trustworthy consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
- Mail Precautions – Don’t leave outgoing mail where the casual passerby may intercept it. Don’t allow mail to collect in your mailbox while you’re away.
- Trash Precautions – A shredder is a wise investment. A few minutes shredding sensitive documents could save you a great deal of money and mental anguish.
- Know Who’s Calling – Identity thieves are cunning and convincing. Don’t provide any personal information over the phone to someone unknown to you, unless you have initiated the call of your own volition.
- Personal Information Safeguards – Be smart about where you store personal financial information, both at home and on your person. For instance a Social Security Card isn’t an item your normally need on your person. Keep this type of information in a safe deposit box or home safe whenever possible.
- User IDs & Passwords – Never divulge these highly confidential pieces of information over the phone. Never write them down on paper and don’t make them too obvious. In fact, we recommend changing your password periodically.
- “Cookies” Monitoring – Cookies can be convenient when Web browsing; however, these files that some websites place on your hard drive and access to enhance functionality on subsequent visits can be dangerous. By accepting them, you are granting access to your hard drive. We recommend setting the security preferences on your browser to prompt you before accepting any cookies. We also encourage you to accept cookies only from trusted, established websites.
- Internet Shopping – Don’t take chances. You should know the merchant with which you’re doing business. Are they forthright with their policies? Do they display the seals of consumer organizations? If you’re a little skeptical, don’t chance it. Better safe than sorry. If you do decide to make a purchase, use a credit card. Federal law limits your liability for an unauthorized charge to $50.
- Internet Banking – Look for the secure connection before conducting business. Secure or encrypted connections are indicated by “https” in the address bar of the browser or the closed padlock at the bottom of the browser. Once you’ve completed a secure session, be sure to log out.
- Online Bill Payment – Make sure your Internet connection is secure (see above) and protect your online banking ID and passwords. Otherwise, you should feel confident in the security measures RiverHills Bank has in place to protect online banking customers.
- Secure Internet Browsing – Choose a Web browser that supports 128-bit encryption. Currently the gold standard for safeguarding information transmitted over the Internet, 128-bit encryption is inherent in most popular Web browsers.
- Spyware Detection and Control – Installed on your computer without your consent or knowledge, Spyware gains access to your computer through the Internet during browsing and can secretly gather personal data about you. In addition to invasion of privacy, Spyware is notorious for retarding system performance and causing crashes. We recommend periodically uninstalling software that you are no longer using or installing anti-spyware software to ensure you’re protected.
Additional information on protecting your identity and avoiding Internet scams may be obtained by clicking on the links below:
From the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website:Identity Theft and Fraud
From the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website:Fighting Back Against Identity Theft