What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft can affect consumers in many ways, but there are also many ways to keep your identity from being "hijacked," and awareness is an effective weapon against many forms of identity theft. Here are some simple steps to avoid becoming a victim:
- Shred or tear up statements and other personal information. Criminals may be able to get access to your accounts and personal information by "dumpster diving" (retrieving canceled checks, deposit receipts or bank statements from dumpsters or trash bins).
- Keep an eye out for any missing mail, particularly account statements and bills that do not arrive when expected. Also, don't leave mail in your mailbox.
- Review your monthly account regularly for any unauthorized charges through the Internet, phone or ATM statements.
- Order free copies of your credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies to ensure accuracy. (See below for links to major credit reporting agencies).
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online. When conducting business online, use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software and do not respond to unsolicited requests for personal information.
- Protect your PINs and passwords. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.
- Memorize your Social Security number instead of carrying it with you.
- Report lost or stolen credit and debit cards immediately!
- Report any suspected fraud immediately to your bank and the fraud units of the three credit reporting agencies.
Scams such as Spoofing and Phishing to commit identity theft are becoming more prevalent. Protecting your personal information from identity theft is a crucial matter and there are many ways the unscrupulous can gain access to such information.
- E-mail Phishing - Involves you receiving an e-mail that appears to be from a legitimate company, such as Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank. It may even include the company's logo and a link to an Internet address that looks appropriate. This e-mail directs you to link to a website where you are to supply account or personal information. However, simply clicking the link could secretly install software on your computer. The software may infect your computer with a virus or record and transmit everything you type, including passwords. Additionally, the website you link to may be spoofing the correct Internet site.
- Website Spoofing - Involves you trying to visit a website but accidentally keying-in or linking-to a different address. This may lead you to a website that mimics the legitimate site that you were trying to visit. The spoof Internet site may route whatever information you provide to criminals. This can include your account numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card information, passwords and personal identification numbers. To make spoof sites seem legitimate, criminals may use the logos, graphics, names and code of the real company's site. They also may attempt to fake the URL that appears in the address field at the top of your browser window and the padlock that appears in the lower right corner.
If you receive what may be a phishing e-mail or visit what might be a spoof website referring to Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank, and if by chance you have provided any personal information, please contact us immediately at: 508-696-9201, ext. 1800.
If the e-mail or website had references to another company, you should contact that company directly.
The best advice is to be cautious and take control of your personal information.
Protect Yourself Online
- Do not reply to an e-mail or pop-up message asking for personal or financial information. Legitimate companies like Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank will never ask for personal or financial information via an e-mail or pop-up message.
- Don't e-mail personal or financial information. If you initiate a transaction, look for indicators that the message is secured, which can be validated by a lock icon. Most e-mail programs do not provide confidentiality via encryption.
- Use bookmarks to access known sites to avoid being lured to imposter sites
- Use updated anti-virus software. Some phishing e-mails contain viruses and software that can harm your computer.
Take the E-Mail Safety Test
To stay on the safe side, simply run these questions through your mind before opening an e-mail message.
- Do you know the sender?
- Have you safely received e-mails from this sender before?
- Were you expecting an e-mail with an attachment from this sender?
- Does it make logical sense that the sender would send you the e-mail, especially if it offers an attachment or link?
- Could it contain a virus? The only way you will know this is to have an anti-virus program installed.
Ignore requests to send or receive money on behalf of a government agency, a company or an individual, no matter how attractive the offer. To learn more about these kinds of scams, go to: Advance Fee Fraud Schemes.
Fake Check Scams
An example of this is when a thief would ask you to return some of the money he or she sent you using a worthless fake check. This kind of false arrangement usually involves large amounts of money. You can learn more on this by going to: Fake Check Scams.
Get More Information
For additional information on phishing and identity theft, go to the Federal Trade Commission's Website at www.ftc.gov
Important Contact Information if You've Been a Victim of Identity Theft
US Government Agencies
Review Your Credit Report
Consumers should obtain a copy of their credit report for review at least once a year.
Credit Reporting Agencies:
- Experian - www.experian.com
To request a credit report and/or to report fraud: 888-397-3742
- Equifax - www.equifax.com
To request a credit report: 800-685-1111 Option 4
To report fraud: 800-525-6285
- TransUnion Corporation - www.transunion.com
To request a credit report: 800-916-8800
To report fraud: 800-680-7289