Up-To-Date Security Alerts
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Scammers, hackers, and identity thieves are looking to steal your personal information - and your money. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself, like keeping your computer software up-to-date and giving out your personal information only when you have good reason.
Update Your Software
Keep your software-including your operating system, the web browsers you use to connect to the Internet, and your apps - up to date to protect against the latest threats. Most software can update automatically, so make sure to set yours to do so. Outdated software is easier for criminals to break into. If you think you have a virus or bad software on your computer, check out how to detect and get rid of malware.
Protect Your Personal Information
Don't hand it out to just anyone. Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. So every time you are asked for your personal information - whether in a web form, an email, a text, or a phone message - think about why someone needs it and whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy.
Protect Your Passwords
Here are a few ideas for creating strong passwords and keeping them safe:
Use at least 10 characters: 12 is ideal for most home users
Try to be unpredictable - don't use names, dates, or common words. Mix numbers, symbols, and capital letters into the middle of your password, not at the beginning or end.
Don't use the same password for many accounts. If it's stolen from you - or from one of the companies where you do business - thieves can use it to take over all your accounts.
Don't share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not ask you for your password.
If you write down a password, keep it locked up, out of plain sight.
Consider Turning on Two-Factor Authentication
For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
Give Personal Information Over Encrypted Websites Only
If you're shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address. That means the site is secure.
Back up Your Files
No system is completely secure. Copy your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. If your computer is attacked by malware, you'll still have access to your files.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your name, date of birth, Social Security number, or some other personal, financial, or medical information without your permission to commit fraud or some other crime, generally for economic gain. Identity theft is also used to fraudulently obtain government documents such as driver licenses and birth certificates. Victims of identity theft can spend many long hours trying to repair the damage that criminals have done to their credit record.
How Do Thieves Get Your Information?
Thieves get your personal information in a variety of ways so they can steal your identity and your money. These include in-person, phone, and online methods.
Examples of some of the methods used include:
Stealing mail from mailboxes
Taking bills, credit card applications, bank statements and other correspondence which may have personal information contained on them.
Looking through the trash for discarded mail, bills, credit card applications, etc to obtain personal information.
An email that appears to be from a legitimate organization sent to a large email list with the hope of luring some users into giving out personal financial information.
Phone call that appears to be coming from a legitimate company asking you to provide personal information. The call can be from a live person or may be an automated message.
Smishing (SMS Phishing)
Text message on your cell phone asking you to provide personal information or directing you to a web site where you will be asked for personal information.
Fake Websites created to appear as official ones.
Warning Signs That Someone Has Stolen Your Information
- Unauthorized charges on your bank statements and other billing statements you didn't authorize.
- Missing bills in the mail.
- Unexpected bills for purchases you did not make or medical services you did not use.
- Receiving credit cards in the mail that you did not request
- Calls or letters from debt collectors about purchases you have not made.
- Being denied credit or being offered a high interest rate on a new account.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
- Notification of a data breach at a company you have done business with.
You can report Identity Theft on the Federal Trade Commission's website www.ftc.gov
Protect Your Identity!
Helpful Tips for Protecting Your Identity:
- Shred all documents containing personal information before throwing them away (e.g. bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills, medical information, credit card offers)
- Use a locked, secure mailbox or US Post Office Box
- Do not provide personal information to individuals in person, on the phone or online unless it is sources you know or have contacted first.
- Review your monthly bank statements and other billing statements carefully for any suspicious activity or charges you didn't authorize.
- Do not respond to any email, phone or text messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don't click on email links in the message, or call phone numbers that are left on your answering machine.
- Get a free copy of your credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, the official source for free credit reports authorized by Federal law. This central site allows you to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Reporting Scams & Identity Theft
If you receive an email, phone call, or text message from the bank asking you for any personal information (e.g. account number or social security) please notify us immediately. The bank will never call you or email you and ask for your personal information.
Report online scams and identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov
Federal Trade Commission
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Anti-Phishing Working Group
AnnualCreditReport.com (the official source for free credit reports authorized by Federal law)
Nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies: