Helping you protect what you value most.
At Sterling National Bank, we want to help you protect what you value most, things like your financial future and your good name. Here's some helpful information on how you can better protect yourself, both online and offline!
Identity Theft Protection
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone "steals" your identity and impersonates you in order to open credit or bank accounts, rent apartments or make major purchases. Identity thieves spend as much money as they can in as little time as possible before moving on to another victim.
While victims are usually not responsible for the majority of their imposters' bills, they are often left in a financial mess, with a bad credit report that can make it difficult to write checks, borrow money, rent an apartment, or even get a job.
How It Can Happen
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information, including:
- Stealing personal information from your home, mailbox or "outbox" at work, such as bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks or tax information.
- Completing a "change of address" form at the post office to divert your mail to another location.
- Rummaging through personal and business trash for information. This practice is known as "dumpster diving".
- Getting information from businesses by stealing records, bribing employees, or hacking into computers.
- Getting information from you via the Internet or telephone by posing as a government official, legitimate company representative, IRS employee or jury duty coordinator. Note: The IRS never requests information via email.
- Stealing wallets or purses and all the credit cards, Social Security card and other identification you keep within it.
- Taking documents from your home through burglary – or even a visit from someone you know. While important documents may be taken during a burglary, they also may be taken, unfortunately, by a relative, neighbor or "friend". A child's information is particularly vulnerable; since they don't have credit histories, it may be years before the theft is discovered.
- Looking at "public" information like that found in "Who's Who" articles, or on employee or student IDs, driver's licenses, medical charts and more.
- Looking over your shoulder – or taking a cell phone photo – at an ATM or phone to get your PIN, credit or calling card numbers.
How To Reduce The Risk
While there's no ironclad way to guarantee you will never fall victim to identity theft, there are ways you can reduce your risk.
Keep your personal information personal
- Commit all your passwords to memory. Never write them down or carry them with you.
- Never give out your personal information over the phone or Internet, unless you've initiated the contact and know with whom you are dealing. Never give out such information in exchange for prizes. If you think it's a legitimate offering, have them put the information in writing and send it to you.
- If you have to give out personal or financial information from a public phone or cell phone, make sure no one is listening – or better yet, move to a more secure location.
- Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Thieves have been known to take information from medical charts; tell your doctors and nurses to be careful with yours.
- Destroy – don't just simply erase – your hard drive before you discard, sell or give away your computer.
- Lock all your personal information in a filing cabinet or safe at home (which, of course, should also be burglar-proofed).
- Stay informed. Watch the media for the latest scams and how to avoid them.
Carry only what you need, when you need it for security
- Don't carry your Social Security card; keep it in a safe place at home.
- Don't keep your auto insurance policies – or registration – in your car. Keep your insurance locked at home; your registration in your wallet.
- Only take the credit cards and identification cards that are absolutely necessary.
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket so it'll be tough for a pickpocket. Carry a purse close to your body through its straps.
- Carry traveler's checks rather than personal bank checks.
Mind your money matters
- Know when your bills and bank statements normally arrive. If one is late, call to ask why. It may have fallen into the wrong hands.
- Examine all of your bank and credit card statements each month; watch for mistakes or unfamiliar charges that may be signs of identity theft.
- Examine your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies at least once each year to make sure no one has stolen your name and is compromising your credit. You're entitled to one FREE credit report from each agency each year, in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
- When you're done with your statements, preapproved credit card offers and other vital information, don't just trash them. Shred or cut them up.
- Use direct deposit, whenever possible, rather than a paper paycheck.
- Don't have new checks mailed to you at home; pick them up at the bank.
- If your "bank" calls to update your "records", ask for the caller's name and number and call them back. It's almost always a scam.
- Cancel any credit cards you haven't used in the last six months. Open credit accounts are prime targets for identity thieves.
- Prefer not to receive preapproved credit card offers. Write to the Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512.
- Call the Credit Reporting Industry at 1-888-567-8688 as an extra step to stop credit card and insurance offers from coming to your home.
- "Skimming" – or secretly copying – the magnetic strip on the back of your credit or debit card when you make a purchase.
- Abusing an employer's authorized access to credit reports, or by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for, and legal right to, your personal information.
- "Phishing" on the Internet by sending legitimate looking (but fraudulent) emails asking for your personal and financial data, often with the promise of a great prize or bargain.
- "Pharming" – or hijacking – a legitimate domain to their web site and stealing the information of users who believe they're providing their data to their customary service provider.
What to do in the Case of Fraud or Identity Theft
If you suspect that your personal information has been lost or stolen to commit fraud or theft, Sterling National Bank is here to help.
- Immediately file a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report, or at least its number, in case you need to show proof of the crime.
- Call our Client Services professionals at 855-SNB-7500 (855-762-7500). Our representatives are here to give you the support you need.
- Contact the fraud departments at each of the three major credit bureaus.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with, or opened fraudulently. While our professionals will assist you with your Sterling National Bank accounts, you should also contact, in writing, the security or fraud department of institutions at which you maintain credit or bank accounts.
- Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
- Experian – 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Contact the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline:
- By phone 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
- Online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft
- By mail at: Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Remember to keep records of everything involved in your efforts to clear up the fraud, including copies of written correspondence and records of telephone calls.
A major aspect of your life, one of which is often overlooked for the potential vulnerability, is your finances. Be diligent in reviewing your bank account statements. Check your bank and credit card statements monthly for fraudulent transactions – if you don’t act immediately, it will be difficult to have them removed.
When using an ATM or a POS terminal, you should still always shelter your hand as you enter your PIN, even by blocking the keypad with your body if you need to. Also, make sure you choose a PIN that is not easily associated with your name, address, phone number or birthdate – the more random it is, the more difficult it would be to guess from your personal info, or your family’s.
A recent adaptation to the theft of credit card numbers is on the back of every card – a 3 digit code on all new credit cards which is called the “card security code”, (CSC). The CSC is used as a security feature, in situations where a PIN cannot be used. The PIN is not printed or embedded on the card but is manually entered by the cardholder during a point-of-sale (card present) transactions. This code is becoming more commonly required when making online purchases and should never be required by any shopping done in-person or over the phone. Even something as simple as a pizza delivered to your door could turn into a fraudulent $3000 purchase of car parts by someone stealing this code, so always keep your card in your possession or within eyesight and arm’s reach.
Common Fraud Scams
There are various types of scams on the Internet which prey on a person’s good-hearted nature or vulnerability. It is therefore important to keep your guard up and think before divulging sensitive information online or to strangers. Here are a few of the more popular scams circulating on the internet.
Have you ever received an email or even an actual letter telling you you’ve won an obscenely large amount in a lottery you never entered? It’s definitely a scam so please do not send them any financial details because you’re just setting yourself up for a fraud or identity theft.
In this type of scam, the criminals usually lure the web surfer to a website which seems real and legitimate but in fact is set up to steal personal details, passwords etc. This is often used for identity theft as well. The common guise for phishing these days seems to be to “confirm your identity”. You might receive emails pretending to be from your bank, PayPal, eBay asking you to click on a link so you can confirm your identity. But this link does not lead to the actual website but will instead redirect you to a fake website cloned to look like the original.
The Nigerian 419 Scam
This breed of scam has been around for a very long time and is known as the advance fee fraud. It has various names such as the Nigerian 419, Nigerian money offer, the Spanish prisoner etc. Similar to the Spanish prisoner scam where the criminal promises to share his fortunes with the victim in exchange for money to bribe the prison guards, the Nigerian 419 has fully come into its own thanks to the availability of email. A scam victim will usually receive an email making an offer of a large sum of money. The subject lines often read something similar to “From the desk of Mr. [name]” or even “Your assistance is solicited”. While the stories may vary slightly, the general plot then talks of a person (usually a corrupt government employee) who has come across a large sum of money and needs your assistance to get the funds out of the country. The money could be cash, gold bullion, blood diamonds, gold dust, checks etc. The sums usually run up to millions of dollars with the victim being promised a huge chunk of it for their “help.” Like all scams, there is a last minute problem and you will be requested to send some money to ensure everything goes smoothly. Needless to say that is the last you will hear of your apparent fortune.
Online Classifieds Scam
Online classified sites have turned out to be some of the most popular websites for a variety of purposes including dating, buying and selling products and even finding work. Unfortunately they have also become notorious for their scams. If you are using an online classifieds website you should be wary. There are all sorts of scams on these sites including scammers even trying to fool you with overpayment for an item you list for sale. As always, never divulge your financial details and if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Now that you know what sort of scams could occur, if a criminal does happen to contact you, you will be able to spot and report them immediately.