Learn to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Have you been a recent or current victim of identity theft?  Report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov  (external link)

Protecting your identity--The Bank of The West can help.

Your identity is one of the most valuable things you own. It’s important to keep your identity from being stolen by someone who can potentially harm your good name and financial well-being. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, address, Social Security Number, credit card or financial account numbers, passwords, and other personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. While the words may sound like a foreign language -- Phishing, Pharming, Vishing, Spyware, Dumpster Diving — they are actually techniques used by thieves to put your identity and finances at risk. And their attacks grow more frequent and sophisticated every year. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States.

 How to help protect your identity

The simple fact is you can help protect yourself against most forms of identity theft. The first step is education. To make it easier to understand, we’ve divided identity theft into the “Danger Zones.” Take a few moments to learn about each of the Danger Zones and the steps you can take to avoid being a victim.

Danger Zone: Email

Phishing is an email scam used to steal your personal information. Emails similar to the one pictured may appear in your inbox, claiming to be from your financial institution, credit card company, or another source. It may appear authentic, but be careful - any email requesting personal information or to “verify” account information is usually a scam. Do not respond to this and do not click on any link from this email.

How to spot Phishing and other email scams

  1. Any email requesting personal information, or asking you to verify an account, is usually a scam... even if it looks authentic.
  2. The email may instruct you to click on a link, or call a phone number to update your account or even claim a prize.
  3. The message will often threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond immediately, such as closing your account.

These are clear signs that someone is “Phishing” for your information.

Email Scam Prevention

Follow these steps to avoid email scams

  1. Never respond to any email asking for confidential information, even if it appears urgent. Chances are it is a fraudulent email.
  2. Never click on a link from an email. Instead, type the known Website address into your Internet browser.
  3. Do not call any phone number provided in a suspicious email. It could be a fake phone number.
  4. Always use anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer, and keep them up-to-date.

Remember, email is not a secure form of communication. So feel free to use your email, but don’t use it to send or receive confidential information. If you need to communicate sensitive information, please call the party directly using a contact number that you obtain from a trusted source, such as a periodic statement or billing invoice.  By following the four basic steps listed, you can help protect yourself from most phishing and other email scams.

Danger Zone: The Internet

The Internet is a great place to browse and do business.  The information contained on the internet is almost limitless.  But, unfortunately, so is the potential for information compromise through scams, cybercrime, and malware.  The internet is a Danger Zone for identity theft, but there are ways to help protect yourself.

There are several types of viruses or malware – which means malicious software – that can infect your computer as you surf the web including:

These programs and processes are becoming more sophisticated and ingenious in their ability to infect your computer. Many are designed to steal your personal information or lock it down to prevent you from accessing it.

Learn how to practice safe surfing

Follow these steps to protect your computer from the majority of Internet crime:

Following these steps will help protect you from the most common forms of identity theft while surfing the Internet.

Danger Zone: Telephone

The telephone is one of the most often used sources for criminal activity. Here’s how it works. Your phone rings. The caller claims to be from your financial institution, or any other normally trusted source. They begin asking questions about you and your account. This could be a telephone scam called Vishing. Someone is attempting to steal your identity. And it happens to millions of Americans every year.

Protect yourself from telephone scams

Follow these steps to protect yourself from most types of identity theft telephone scams:

As a general guideline, be highly suspicious anytime you receive a call that requests you to provide personal information over the phone.

Danger Zone: Payments

Payment fraud happens when someone uses information from your checks, credit and debit cards, or any other form of payment without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. But this, and other forms of identity theft, can be quickly stopped if you know how to protect yourself.

Avoid being a victim of payment fraud

Don’t make it easy for criminals to steal your personal information. Here are some common sense tips to protect your identity:

Reducing your risk of identity theft starts with protecting your personal information. Keep it from getting into the wrong hands. Always be diligent about protecting your identity.

Danger Zone: Home

The simple act of sending and receiving mail, and putting your trash out at night, can put your personal information at risk. Financial information, checks, account and credit card statements, and monthly bills can be stolen from your home, mailbox or even from your trash, and used to access your accounts and steal your identity.

Follow these steps to protect against identity theft in your home

By following these steps you are on the right track to protecting your identity. Learning about all the identity theft danger zones and the simple steps you can take to help avoid being a victim is the best way to protect your good name. 

Danger Zone: Mobile Devices

The most important step in keeping mobile devices such as phones and tablets secure is realizing that mobile devices are portable computers and treating them as such.  A few common-sense precautions will help protect you from fraud and I.D. Theft:

Mobile Devices are useful tools that can simplify your life and make staying connected very easy.  By using common sense, it can also be a safe and secure part of your daily life.

Danger Zone:  Social Engineering

“Social Engineering” is any method of theft that manipulates your human nature in order to gain access to your personal, nonpublic information. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself from thieves that use Social Engineering techniques:

Those executing Social Engineering attacks are smart and very good at exploiting your honesty and natural cooperation. They can send email that looks like it came from a family member, or hijack your best friend's social network account.  They can call you and make any number or person show up on your caller ID.  Don't let your good nature become your downfall.  It’s OK to be suspicious—in fact, we encourage it!  The best way to avoid Social Engineering schemes is to be cautious and suspicious of ANY request for money, passwords, account numbers, or other confidential information – no matter from where it seems to be coming.

Danger Zone: Social Media

 Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, among others, are the new gathering place for people.  With just a few clicks, you can update you status, post photos, find new friends, and do many other things as well.  Social media can allow you to reconnect with long-lost friends as well as make new ones.  But not everyone you find on social media sites really wants to be your friend.  Identity Thieves and fraudsters are lurking out there, looking for ways to get information about you they can use for their own personal gain.  Here are some things you can do to help reduce your social media risk of identity theft:

We hope that these “Danger Zone” tips will help you to be more aware of the ways your personal information is at risk, and will help to prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.  However, though you can mitigate the risk, it can’t be eliminated entirely.  We all make mistakes, and sometimes in spite of our best efforts, or through circumstances that can’t be controlled, identity theft or data compromise will still occur.  Here are some things to do to monitor for possible identity theft:

How to Spot Identity Theft

Oops. Now What?

If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, here’s what you should do as soon as possible:

More Information About Unauthorized Transactions

Consumers are protected in a number of ways against unauthorized electronic transactions, but it’s very important to do your part.  Here are some protections afforded to consumer accounts if you report fraudulent transactions in a timely manner:

The best way to report unauthorized activity to us is to contact your local branch or the main bank at: 580-661-3541.

The security of your money and identity is as important to us as it is to you. Let's work together to protect it. 

If you have any questions, or would like more information on information, please call us at (580) 661-3541 and we will be happy to assist you.




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