8 Ways Identity Thieves Steal Your Information and How to Stay One Step Ahead
Hi, it’s Deb with Royal’s Financial Education team, back with part two of our four-part Money Talk series on Identity Theft. In part one, we identified the specific pieces of personal information that thieves are seeking. Today we will explain how thieves steal that information and what you can do to stay one step ahead of them.
The majority of people who report fraud say that it occurred through a phone call. It’s important to understand that financial institutions, the IRS and the police won’t contact you for information this way. Never give out personal information over the phone, no matter how urgent or angry the caller may sound. If you are concerned that it may be a legitimate call, hang up and call back using the number you normally use to ensure that you are talking to the right person.
A malicious email can look like it came from a legitimate business and often has a sense of urgency to it. It may also ask you for personal or financial information or ask you to click on a link for more instructions. Never share your personal information or click a link in an unsolicited email or text message. If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, contact the company directly using the information provided on an account statement, not information provided in the email.
An acquaintance of mine who teaches financial education to incarcerated people shared that many of her students admitted to digging through people’s trash in order to steal their personal information. It happens more often than you may think! Protect yourself by always shredding your documents with a quality cross shredder or micro shredder. This includes bills, bank statements, receipts, medical billings, credit card offers, canceled checks or any other items that contain personal or financial information. These documents can also be safely disposed of by bringing them to one of Royal’s Shred Day events.
Your mailbox is another target for thieves. If you are mailing a payment, only send it from a secured mailbox. Make the switch to receive statements electronically for your accounts and always place a hold on your mail when going on vacation. Keep your mailbox free from pre-approved credit offers by opting out of receiving them, which you can do by calling 1-888-567-8688 or by visiting optoutprescreen.com.
Stolen wallets can be a jackpot of personal information for identity thieves. Make sure that your wallet only contains the items that you really need and leave the rest at home. You should never keep your social security card, Medicare card, PINs, passwords, blank checks, receipts or unnecessary cards in your wallet. Make photocopies of everything you carry in your wallet and keep them in a secure place, such as a safe. The copies will not only remind you of everything that you had in your wallet, but will also contain the phone numbers needed to alert financials and credit card companies of the theft.
Almost any public place you frequent—libraries, airports, hotels, retail stores, coffee shops—offer free Wi-Fi to their patrons. Although it’s convenient, you need to use caution, as Wi-Fi works by communicating with your device over regular radio waves. That means that anyone around you can tap into your internet communication simply by tuning in to the right “channel.” Conducting financial transactions and logging in to any of your accounts should always be done from home or on a trusted, secured network.
A data breach is a security incident where personal information is accessed without authorization. Corporations and businesses are especially attractive to cybercriminals due to the large amount of data that can be captured in one fell swoop. If you are notified that you may be victim of a data breach, you should take it seriously. Take the same steps you would take if your credit card was lost or stolen and monitor your credit report closely for the next couple of years. Often the company that was breached will offer you free credit monitoring for a year, so thieves wait for that time period to expire before using the stolen information.
Skimmers are malicious card readers that steal data from a card’s magnetic stripe through cloning, or copying, the card’s numbers. They are placed on top of the actual scanner, but often do not prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly. The EMV chips that are now present on many cards were created to prevent this type of identity theft, by being able to store and process much more data and prevent cloning. Before swiping the stripe of your card, always look closely to check for tampering. Give the card reader a wiggle and see if it comes loose. If it looks different, don’t use it and notify someone right away.
Knowledge is power. Be informed and keep safe. Royal Credit Union is always here to help!