Taking simple steps to evade identity or information theft can save you from a world of pain. Here are some tips to help keep you safe:
The Federal Trade Commission has launched a nationwide identity theft education campaign to encourage consumers to keep close watch on their personal information and respond quickly when they think their data has been accessed without authorization. An education kit includes a victim recovery guide "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft", a training booklet "Talking About Identity Theft: A How to Guide", and a 10-minute video on ID theft. The materials can be ordered at www.consumer.gov/idtheft*. To talk to a counselor, or if you think your personal information has been stolen, you may call 1-877-IDTHEFT.
- Minimize the use of your Social Security Number, and keep your Social Security card in a safe place other than your wallet.
- Be aware of phishing scams. Don't respond to requests to verify your account number or password. MVFCU will never ask for personal information including passwords or card numbers via email or text messages.
- Destroy documents that contain personal identification information, including convenience checks, preapproved credit card offers, and the like.
- Protect your computer from spyware and viruses.
- Opt out of information sharing by reading through websites' privacy policies.
- Don't share any personal information online unless you know it is a secure website with https:// in the address bar and the symbol of a padlock at the bottom of the browser window.
- Review your statements and bills to be sure there are no unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
- Stop pre-approved credit offers (which decrease your credit score and make a perfect target for identity thieves to steal your mail) by removing your name from the credit bureau marketing lists. Visit www.optoutprescreen.com* or call (888)-5OPTOUT.
- Anytime you are asked for personal information, and it seems "phishy," ask questions. Don't do business with them if you are not satisfied with the answers you receive.
- Review your credit report on an annual basis at a minimum. Free at www.annualcreditreport.com*.
Avoid Online Danger
- Avoid opening unsolicited or suspicious email.
- Don't open attachments from unknown senders.
- Don't download file-sharing applications or software.
- Keep your security tools enabled.
- Never plug an unknown USB into your computer.
- Don't surf questionable websites.
- Keep firewalls turned on.
- Only use encrypted wireless networks because they offer higher levels of protection.
- Only use your personal computer or device to fill web forms and registration pages. This prevents key loggers from collecting your information on a shared device.
- Be especially wary about information you share on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Never give a computer technician your password information unless absolutely necessary and if you are certain they are who they say they are.
Create Secure Passwords
- Keep your password a secret from everyone!
- Don't ever write your password down.
- Ensure your password cannot be guessed by avoiding the use of personal identifiers (do not use a pet name or your name, or things that you like that identity thieves would easily be able to deduce).
- Avoid using single words. Use a combination of lower and upper case letter, symbols and numbers.
- Keep your password random.
While all of the above security information is essential to know, it's important to understand that information security is everyone's responsibility.
Phishing and Pharming Scams
Phishing attacks are “spoofed” emails and fraudulent web sites designed to fool consumers into divulging personal financial data such as account user names and passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known financial institutions, online retailers, and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5% of recipients to respond to them..
Avoid Phishing Scams
- Check to see that your browser is up to date and security patches are applied.
- Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. Read mail only from senders that you know and don’t open suspicious attachments.
- Don’t use the links in an email to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic.
- Regularly log into your online accounts and check your financial institution credit and debit card statements to make sure that all transactions are legitimate.
- Make sure you are using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your web browser.
Pharming Is A Twist Of Phishing
Online thieves are moving from Phishing to Pharming. Unlike phishing, pharming does not require a response from the customer. Experts warn that pharming may be more sinister that phishing because it is harder to detect.
Unlike phishing, which uses e-mail spam to deliver fraudulent messages, pharming operates through phony Web sites. The user is automatically directed from a legitimate web site to a copy of that web site with no warning signs. Once the victim is transferred to the bogus site, it collects passwords, plastic card numbers and other private information for the purpose of committing identity thief. Phishing requires a response from the victim while pharming does not.
Online users are urged to watch for uncommon login processes that don't look the same as on legitimate sites. Some sites will ask users for information such as Social Security numbers, not normally required.
If you believe you have provided personal or account information in response to a fraudulent e-mail or Web site, please contact Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union at 907-745-4891 and contact the other financial institutions with which you have accounts.