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Identity Theft
Identity theft is the illegal and fraudulent use of an individual's personal identifying information. Identity thieves use information such as Social Security number, birth date, and mother's maiden name to open new bank and/or credit card accounts, obtain loans, and charge on existing credit card accounts.

In 2013 some 13.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft. That is up from 12.6 million in 2012. A large portion of the increase was driven by an increase in more-serious forms of ID theft, such as new account fraud, where a criminal uses a victim's personal information to open new credit cards or other kinds of loans. This type of fraud accounted for 28% of all identity fraud, hitting a new incident record for the second year in a row. While the number of Americans affected by fraud increased in 2013, the total dollar amount stolen remained consistent. Experts attribute these findings to three things.
  1. Fraudsters are trying to exploit as many consumers as possible.
  2. More stringent security monitoring criteria that has been implemented by financial institutions.
  3. Higher numbers of Americans are monitoring their own accounts more closely and are catching the fraud faster.
At First Sound Bank, we are committed to protecting our customers' personal information. To help educate our customers about identity theft, we have provided information on how identity theft happens, how to prevent it and what to do if you are a victim.

  • Theft/Robbery
    • dumpster diving for documents containing personal or financial information
    • stealing a purse or wallet
    • taking incoming or outgoing mail from your home mailbox
    • breaking into your home and taking documents or a computer with personal or financial information stored on it
    • shoulder surfing at ATM machines and POS terminals in order to capture PIN numbers
  • Address change
    • identity thieves change the address on account statements or bills and have them sent to their own address or, more likely, a PO Box
  • From businesses
    • stealing information from the workplace
    • bribing an employee
    • conning an employee (see Social Engineering)
    • hacking into a company's computer system
  • Skimming
    • stealing credit/debit card information by using a data storage device when processing (swiping) a card
  • Internet
    • Phishing - fishing for confidential information
      • the consumer receives an email that appears to be valid and originate from a financial institution, government agency or other reputable entity
      • the message states an urgent reason why you must "verify" or "re-submit" personal or confidential information by clicking on a link embedded in the message - the link appears to be the website of the legitimate company but really belongs to the "phisher"
    • Spyware
      • software that can track online usage and personal information, even record every keystroke
      • often unknowingly installed by consumers because it is packaged with other software
    • Trojan Horse virus (i.e. Zeus financial malware)
      • an email virus usually released by opening an email attachment
      • the virus scours the hard drive for personal information or credentials then transmits this information to the thief's remote server
  • Social Engineering
    • the identity thief calls a financial institution posing as a customer, an official at another bank, a government regulator or a law enforcement officer trying to get information on customer's account
    • may use intimidation (threatening to close account), helplessness or claim an emergency situation
  • Bills or statements that don't arrive when expected
  • New or replacement credit cards that don't arrive in a timely manner
  • Credit card bills or account statements for accounts you didn't open
  • Calls or letters from collection agencies about accounts you didn't open
  • Unexpected denials of credit
  • Emails asking for personal information that don't address you by name, threaten action if you don't respond, or contain spelling errors
  • Accounts listed on your credit report that you have no knowledge of establishing

To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take.

General Recommendations:
  • Be cautious about giving your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them or if there is a logical, legitimate purpose for sharing this information
  • Monitor your financial information including bank statements and online banking consistently
  • Check your credit report regularly
  • Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts
  • Keep sensitive information secured - both at home and work
  • Shred all financial and personal documents before discarding them
  • Don't give out personal information over the phone, mail or internet unless you initiated the contact
  • Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Call 888-5OPTOUT or go online to www.optoutprescreen.com. This will limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit that you receive. When tossed into the garbage, these are a potential target of identity thieves who use them to order credit cards in your name
  • Collect your mail promptly each day and use a US Postal Service mailbox for outgoing mail; when you are away from home for an extended time, have your mail held at the Post Office, or ask a trusted neighbor to pick it up
  • Limit your receipt of paper statements and documents by utilizing paperless options
    • the fewer personal documents sent through the mail, the less chance there is for possible fraud
    • use Bill Pay to pay bills on-line or set-up automatic deductions from your checking account and/or credit account
    • regularly monitor and manage your accounts on-line with Sound Internet Banking to detect any fraudulent transactions more quickly
  • Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet; don't carry your Social Security card or number with you
  • Shield your hand when using a bank ATM machine or anywhere that requires you to enter your PIN. "Shoulder surfers" may be nearby with binoculars or a video camera
  • Always take credit card and ATM receipts with you. Never toss them in a public trash container. When shopping, put receipts in your wallet rather than in the shopping bag
  • Never permit your credit card number or SSN to be written onto your checks
  • When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank. Use a gel pen for writing checks. Experts say that gel ink contains tiny particles of color that are trapped in the paper, making check washing more difficult
  • Don't click on a link provided in an email - it may direct you to a phony website that looks legitimate but isn't. Don't cut and paste links - type the web address into the address bar
    • add bank and other financial institution sites to your "favorites" list
  • Place passwords on credit card, bank and utility accounts
    • this not only prevents a thief from getting information about you or your account but also prevents him from making changes to the account, e.g., address change
  • Don't use personal information for passwords; create "strong" passwords using letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols
    • don't use automatic log-in/"Remember Me" functions offered on some websites
  • Use firewalls and anti-virus programs on your personal computer, keep these services up-to-date
  • Don't open emails or files sent by strangers
  • Be selective when downloading software and read the fine print carefully
  • Encrypt files containing sensitive information before emailing them
  • Do not use debit cards when shopping online. Use a credit card because you are better protected in case of fraud
  • Look for signs of security when shopping online
    • A padlock symbol in the status bar
    • An "s" after "http" in the URL
    • The words Secure Socket Layer ("SSL")
  • If you get deceptive spam, including email phishing for your personal information, forward it to spam@uce.gov
  • Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, and investments -- the account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments -- in a secure place (not your wallet or purse) so you can quickly contact these companies in case your credit cards have been stolen or accounts are being used fraudulently
  • Washington State allows ID theft victims to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze locks, or freezes, access to the consumer credit report and credit score. Without this information, a business will not issue new credit to a thief. When the consumer wants to get new credit, he or she uses a PIN to unlock access to the credit file
  • Depending on the type of Identity Theft, you may need to contact the following - (you may want to initially contact them by phone but it is important to follow up in writing. Also, always ask the creditor for a letter confirming that they have closed a fraudulent account and discharged the debts):
    • All financial institutions where you have accounts that an identity thief has taken over or that have been created in your name but without your knowledge. You may need to cancel those accounts, place stop-payment orders on any outstanding checks that may not have cleared, and change your Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, and Personal Identification Number (PIN)
    • all creditors with whom your name or identifying data have been fraudulently used
    • your local office of the Postal Inspection Service if you suspect that an identity thief has submitted a change-of-address form with the Post Office to redirect your mail, or has used the mail to commit frauds involving your identity. For more information visit: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/
    • the Social Security Administration if you suspect that your Social Security number is being fraudulently used (call 800-269-0271 to report the fraud)
  • File a police report
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    Federal Trade Commission
    877-IDTHEFT (877.438.4338)
Credit Reporting Agencies Fraud Divisions
Other Identity Theft prevention and support resources:

Receive free, confidential help by contacting Call For Action at 1-866-ID-HOTLINE (1-866-434-6854) or www.callforaction.org

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