"What is Identity Theft and how can I protect myself"
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date, of birth, or Social Security number to commit fraud. With this information a thief could take over the victim's financial accounts, open new bank accounts, purchase automobiles, and apply for loans, credit cards, and Social Security benefits.
Hampton Roads Bankshares is committed to the addressing the financial concerns of its customers by providing information to combat the issue of Identity Theft.
Below are some useful steps to aid in reducing your risk of identity theft.
How do Identity Thieves acquire key pieces of personal information?
- Theft of your wallet, purse, or checkbook.
- Removing mail from your mailbox, either incoming or outgoing.
- Going through your trash.
- Phishing - Obtaining information by email scams or fraudulent websites.
- Hacking - Illegally gaining access to computer systems containing personal or financial data.
- Pretext Calling - Using false pretenses to obtain information via telephone.
- Guard that Social Security number. The most important step is to guard your Social Security number -- it is the key to your credit report and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. Do not print your Social Security number on your checks. Monitor your Social Security activity by ordering your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once a year to check for fraud.
- Monitor your credit report. Credit reports can alert you to activity in your financial records. A monitoring service, such as Privacy Guard, will notify you whenever someone applies for credit in your name or checks your credit history.
- Review your credit report from the three major agencies at least annually to confirm there were no unauthorized credit inquiries made or accounts opened in your name. The major credit reporting agencies are:
Major Credit Reporting Agencies
- Consider using one of the credit report monitoring services offered through Equifax, or one of the other major credit reporting agencies.
- Buy a shredder and use it. Identity thieves may use your garbage to obtain personal information. Shred all old bank and credit statements, as well as "junk mail" credit-card offers, before trashing them. Use a crosscut shredder -- they cost more than regular shredders but are superior.
- Remove your name from marketing lists. The three credit-reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion maintain marketing lists that may contain your information. Contact the agencies to remove your name from the lists.
- Watch what you carry in your purse or wallet. Do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet or carry extra credit cards or other important identity documents except when needed. These documents can give thieves ready access to your accounts.
- Mail payments from a safe location. Do not mail bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and washed clean in chemicals. (This process is commonly called "Flagging"). Take them to the post office.
- Monitor your credit-card activity. Carefully examine your credit-card statements for fraudulent charges before paying them. If you don't need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, close the accounts.