Identity theft occurs when a thief co-opts some piece of personal information (e.g. social security number) about a customer, and without the consumer's knowledge appropriates the information to commit fraud or theft. A common example cited by the Federal Trade Commission is when an identity thief uses a consumer's personal information to open a credit card account in the consumer's name, and uses the account to "run-up" fraudulent charges for themselves.
How Identity thieves obtain personal information
Identity thieves use a variety of both low-tech and high-tech methods to gain access to personal data including:
- Steal wallets and purses containing personal identification and credit cards
- Steal the mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards, and tax information
- "Dumpster-Drive", or rummage through the trash to obtain personal information
- Change the address on credit card accounts, diverting the monthly statement to a fraudulent address. This allows the identity thief to run up large bills before the consumer is aware of the theft
- "Skimming", or using a computer to read and store the information encoded on the magnetic strip of an ATM or credit card. Once stored, this information is re-encoded on the back of any other card with a magnetic strip, creating an identical, machine readable duplicate of the original card
- Purchase personal information from "inside sources", e.g. pay an employee of a company to supply personal information gleaned from credit or other service application taken by the company
- Open a credit card account in consumer's name. With name, date of birth and Social Security Number, they establish credit in the name of the consumer, "run up" the account, don't pay the bills, and the unwitting customer is reported as delinquent on their personal information.
Despite the best efforts of customers to manage the flows of their personal information, skilled identity thieves are still able to obtain personal information. Identity theft may go undetected for months and even years. Victims of identity theft may not realize that someone has stolen their identity until they are denied credit or until a creditor attempts to collect an unpaid bill.
Federal Commission Role
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established the Federal Government's central web site for information about identity theft. The address is: www.consumer.gov/section/scams-and-identity-theft.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America affecting approximately 500,000 new victims each year.
- Order a credit report on yourself once a year and check to be sure all information is accurate. To learn how to request your credit report call:
- Experian/TRW ($8.50) (800) 301-7195 www.experian.com.
- Equifax ($8.00) (800) 685-1111 www.equifax.com .
- Trans Union ($8.50) (800) 916-8800 www.transunion.com .
(You may request a free copy of your credit report. Credit bureaus must provide a a free copy of your credit report if you have reason to believe the report is inaccurate because of fraud and you submit the request in writing.)
- Look for ways to "opt out" of mailing lists to reduce "junk" mail. One way is to contact Mail Preferences Service (MPS) P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008. MPS does not stop all junk mail. For other types of unwanted mail, deal with each mailer directly.
- To get your name off mailing lists for pre-approved offers on credit, notify the credit bureaus at the following number: (888) SOPTOUT or (888) 567-8688. Your one call is shared by all three credit bureaus.
Marketing Lists - Experian offers consumers the opportunity to have their names removed from lists that are used for marketing and promotional purposes. To have your name removed from Experian's marketing list, call (800) 407-1088.
- Be especially protective of your social security number (SSN). Only give it out when you know it is required (e.g., tax forms, most banking, stock and property transactions).
- Always balance your checking account each month. Be sure and report any unauthorized transactions immediately.
- Don't write your Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your ATM/Debit Card.
- If you are on the Internet, avoid sending personal information (SSN, credit card number, address, password, etc.) by chat lines, e-mail and the like unless the communication line is encrypted.
- Create emergency phone lists with names and phone numbers of who to contact should cards or data be stolen or compromised.
Preventing Pretext Phone Calling
Pretext calling is the practice of illicitly gathering through secret or fraudulent means, confidential information from financial institutions and other businesses by pretending to be a particular customer. Pretext calling has become routine for private investigators, asset searchers, and other information brokers. Typically, someone poses as a customer, seeks out assistance from a helpful employee and then uses readily available personal information such as the customer's name, address, social security number, and/or mothers maiden name to coax the employee to share additional financial information.
Pretext calling is a Federal crime and often very difficult to detect.
Guidelines for Safeguarding Customer Information
The Guidelines for Safeguarding Customer Information requires NB&T to establish written policies and procedures to control risks to customer information, and consider access controls on customer information as part of policies and procedures.