What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft: Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information, such as Social Security or driver's license numbers, in order to impersonate someone else. The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim, or to provide the thief with false credentials. In addition to running up debt, an imposter might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen.

Common Types of Computer Identity Theft Schemes

Phishing: When internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information, it is called phishing. Don't reply to email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don't click on links within them either even if the message seems to be from an organization you trust. It isn't. Legitimate businesses don't ask you to send sensitive information through unsecure channels.

Pharming: This can happen when a hacker tampers with a website host file or domain name system so that URL address requests are rerouted to a fake or spoofed website created by the hacker to capture personal identifying information from victims. The victim then thinks that they are on a trusted website, and are more willing to enter their personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and addresses. The hacker then uses that information to commit identity theft.

Vishing: A technique, much like phishing, that allows criminals to maliciously gain access to your personal information for the purposes of identity theft. Vishing scams use a combination social engineering and phishing to find victims that can be tricked into providing credit card or personally identifying information. Typically, the criminal sends the victim some kind of notice or leaves a message, requesting that the victim returns a call to verify an account or some similar ploy. When the victim returns the call, they are asked to provide account and identifying information under the guises of "updating" the account.

Once the criminal has access to that information, it is used for credit card or banking fraud, or as the first step in a stolen identity. Vishing also allows criminals to spoof caller-id, making a vishing scam hard to detect because everything appears to be legitimate.

ATM Tampering: Thieves steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device attached to ATM machines. The device reads the magnetic strip on your card which thieves use to commit fraud.

Other Common Ways Thieves Steal Your Information
  • Dumpster Diving. Thieves will go through your trash looking for bills, credit cards and other information.
  • Information retrieval. Thieves desire your hard drive with personal information on it. Have your hard drive professionally erased before disposing of it.
  • Victim research. Thieves access government registers, internet search engines, and public records to gain pieces of your personal information.
  • Shoulder surfing. The thief simply eavesdrops on transactions you make in public and pick up whatever useful information you disclose.
  • Employment scams. These scams advertise a bogus job and request personal information. Never give out personal identification information without knowing whom you are dealing with.
  • Social networking. Thieves regularly troll social networking sites to steal personal information so they can use to commit fraud.
  • Changing Your Address. Thieves divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.

How to Safeguard Yourself

Passwords: Make them unique and hard for criminals to guess (i.e. do not use your street address). Do not share passwords with other people and do not write passwords or Personal Identification Numbers down.

Anti-Virus: Keep your computer's anti-virus software up-to-date. New viruses are being created every day.

Anti-Spyware: Software to detect and remove spyware is readily available and should be on all computers.

Don't Get Phished: Don't answer any suspicious e-mails. And always remember that St Landry Bank will not ask you to "verify" any information through an e-mail. If you get such an e-mail, it's a scam.

Additional Safeguards:
  • Destroy credit card solicitations before throwing them away. "Dumpster-diving" is still one of the ways criminals get cards in your name.
  • Prepare a list of your credit card numbers and company contact information.
  • Shred bank statements before discarding.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately.
  • Review account statements regularly to verify all transactions.
  • Review your credit report on an annual basis (see information below).
  • Protect your purse or wallet.

Check List for Victims of Identity Theft

If you become a victim of identity theft you should do the following:
  • File a police report.
  • Contact your bank.
  • Cancel your credit cards.
  • Notify credit bureau fraud units
  • º Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    º Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    º TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Place a fraud alert statement on your credit report.
  • Request that credit bureaus identify accounts closed due to fraud as "closed by consumer's request".
  • Request a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com .
  • Check post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
  • Follow-up telephone contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence.

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