Identity Theft Protection
What is Identity Theft?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, "identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and can take time, money, and patience to resolve."
Fraud Alert: "Card Cracking"
Card Cracking is another take on check-depositing scams. Individuals are targeted through e-mail or social media by scammers looking to use the intended victims' debit cards in order to cash phony checks. Victims are promised a cash sum equal to half the check's value. Victims are recruited and asked to share their debit card and PIN number, which gives the scammers direct access to the victims' bank accounts. When banks confirm the cashed check is fradulent, the account holder (the victim) is responsible for any money withdrawn from the account. For more information on Card Cracking and how to avoid becoming a victim, please read this article from UAHPD.
Protecting Your Identity
There are several simple steps that you can take to better protect your personal information from theft and misuse. These include, but are not limited to:
Keep your personal information secure offline
Keep personal records (birth certificate, passport, tax returns, etc.) in a safe and secure place at home or in a safe deposit box. Lock your purse or wallet in a safe, secure place when you are at school or work. Don't leave them in a visible location in your vehicle - consider locking them in the trunk if you plan to leave them in the vehicle. Shred receipts, credit applications, expired credit cards, tax returns, and similar documents when you no longer need them.
Keep your personal information secure online
Know who you share information with. Store and dispose of your personal information securely. Be alert to imposters, phishing attempts, and other social engineering efforts to obtain your personal information. Don't give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact. Don't follow email links - instead, type the company name into your web browser, go to their site, and contact them through their customer service. Or, call the customer service number listed on your account statement. If contacting the company about a request for information you received, verify that they company really sent the request. Report all phishing attempts to the company being misrepresented. Be careful when using public computers - avoid making financial transactions or purchases from public computers or someone else's mobile devices.
Keep your personal devices secure
Password protect your device! Lock the device when not in use. Encrypt your data on your personal computer and mobile devices. If your mobile device has an app available for tracking lost devices (such as Apple's "Find My iPhone" app), configure and use it. Before you dispose of a personal computer or laptop, wipe the hard drive using a wipe utility to overwrite the entire hard drive. Before you dispose of a mobile device remove the memory card and SIM card, erase all contacts, voicemails, messages, organizer folders, web history, photos, and calls, and if possible reset the device to factory defaults. Remember that just resetting to factory defaults does not remove all information from most devices - you will still need to take steps to remove all personal data.
Keep passwords private
Use strong passwords with your computers, bank accounts, and online accounts - especially the online accounts where you might have credit card information stored. Be careful about storing credit card informatin online - use only trusted sites and change your passwords regularly. Be creative with passwords - use a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Substitute numbers and symbols for some words or letters. For example, the phrase "UAH Police" might be converted to "U4H_P01!c3".
Don't overshare personal information on social networks
Posting too much information about yourself online can make it much easier for an identity thief to find information about your life and use it to answer "challenge" question on your accounts, and gain access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting acces to your networking pages to a small group of people. Never post your full name, social security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
Identity Theft Resources
Understanding what identity theft is and how to prevent it is something we strongly recommend. Here are some identity theft informational resources that may help you better protect your identity: