Keep Your Identity Safe

Identity theft (fraud) happens when someone steals your personal information and pretends to be you. This person might charge items to your credit card, take money out of your bank account, and open new bank accounts using your name or even your social security number.

Prevent identity theft:

  • Don’t Give out Personal Information
  • Monitor Your Credit Report and Credit Card
  • Only Shop at Reliable Web Sites
  • Don’t Open Email Attachments from Unknown Sources
  • Using the Internet in Public

Phishing is an online con game where Internet criminals, called phishers, try to steal your identity by sending an email claiming to be real business and asking you to give up private information.

How phishing works:

The email links to a false Web site where you are asked to “update” your personal information (passwords, credit card, social security, and bank account numbers). If you type your information into the site, the phisher steals it. Phishing emails usually look like they’re from a bank, credit card company, PayPal, eBay, or anywhere else you may have registered for an account.

Who’s at risk?

Anyone with an e-mail address. If your e-mail has been made public (by posting in forums or on a Web site), it is more likely to get phished because the e-mail address can be saved by spiders that search the Internet and grab as many e-mail addresses as they can.

Make sure you don’t get phished:

  • If you receive a suspicious email and are not sure what to do, call the phone number listed on your official bill. Do not call the phone number listed in the email.
  • Never email out your credit card account numbers, social security number, PIN, credit card security code, mother’s maiden name or passwords.
  • Only Shop at Reliable Web Sites
  • Don’t Open Email Attachments from Unknown Sources
  • Keep Your Computer Safe

If your identity has been stolen:

  1. Contact Your Credit Card Company: Call the number listed on the back of your card. Report the crime and close your account immediately. Most companies will take the charges off your bill if you call right away.
  1. Contact Your Bank: Your bank should refund your money if it’s already been taken out of your account. Ask your bank if you should close your accounts. Create new passwords.
  1. Call the Police: File a police report with your local police department. Keep a copy for your credit card company or bank. If the local police can’t help, try the state police.

Remember to Monitor Your Credit Report and Credit Card.

Explain Phishing to Kids

While most kids don’t have credit cards to spend money, they might click on links in phishing pop ups or emails. Clicking could result in viruses being downloaded onto your computer. Teach your child how to close the pop up by clicking the X box in the upper right corner. Explain that links in a pop up or an email from a stranger should never be clicked on, even if it looks like a fun online poll.

How to check your credit report:

  • You can get your credit report for free at Annual Credit Report or call (877) 322-8228.
  • Make sure to check your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you find something that looks wrong, call your creditor right away.
  • Subscribe to a credit protection service, like Experian’s CreditCheck. This alerts you whenever something changes on your credit report.

Review your credit and debit card statements:

Check these carefully every month. Make sure you recognize the stores, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you bank online, check your statement every month.

If you find a mistake:

  1. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus.
  2. Tell them that you’re an identity theft victim.
  3. Request that a “fraud alert” be placed in your file, along with a victim’s statement. This makes creditors have to call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing information.
  4. Call creditors and tell them about any accounts in your name that have been affected. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department.
  5. Follow up with a letter.

You can buy almost anything online. But not every Web site is a safe place to shop. Protect your credit card and identity by shopping on securesites.

Here’s how to tell if a site is secure:

  • Look for the lock symbol next to the url or in the lower-right corner.
  • Make sure the Web address begins with “https” rather than just “http.” The “s stands for secure.
  • Do a background check. Look for a physical address (not a P.O. box), request a catalog by mail, or call and talk to a company representative.
  • Look for third party seal of approval. Look for either the Better Business Bureau Online logo or the Trust-e logo. Web sites can only use these seals on their site if they follow the standards set by these companies. If you do see these seals, click on them to be sure they go to that Web site.
  • Read the privacy policy and “terms and conditions.” Make sure the site has a policy that says they do not disclose your personal information to third parties.
  • Find out what other users have to say. If there are no user comments on the site, check Epinions or Bizrate.
  • Review the site’s shipping methods and policies. Be sure the site uses safe carriers with fair shipping rates. You may want to avoid sites that ship from international locations.
  • Trust your instincts. If you get a bad vibe about the site, shop at another one.

A site should never ask you to:

  • Give your Social Security Number, bank account number or mother’s maiden name.
  • Complete a survey as a requirement to purchase a product.

If it does, stop using the site immediately.

Attachments are files sent with an email. Your email will show a paper clip icon if you have one.

Most of the time, these are safe when sent by friends and family. However, they can also contain viruses and other unwanted programs, such as spyware and adware, especially if sent by someone you don’t know.

Spyware and adware:

Spyware is a program that secretly monitors (spies on) what you’re doing on your computer. It can record your user name, passwords, bank account numbers, driver’s license, social security numbers, and read your email/IM. This allows the criminal to steal your identity.

Adware sells your personal information to companies or people who want you to buy their products.

How to avoid spyware/adware:

  • Don’t download free entertainment or security software. Free software, music, screensavers, file-sharing programs and even anti-virus programs often contain spyware. Only download software from sites you know. Even then, be cautious.
  • Set the security for your internet browser to “high.” This will help stop automatic downloads of bad software.
  • Don’t open or preview spam. Never click on the links inside these emails.
  • Close pop-ups immediately. Close pop-ups by clicking on the X in the upper right hand corner. Never click on the links inside.

Get rid of spyware/adware:

1. Download an anti-spyware or security protection program from a reliable company. Try these:



2. Set this program to scan your computer at least once a week.

3. Follow your anti-spyware (or general security program) directions carefully. If it tells you there are files or programs carrying spyware on your computer, delete these immediately.

Be smart in public places:

Whether you’re using a library computer or a wireless network, using a public Internet connection has some risks, including identity theft and snooping.

Avoid these risks:

Make sure the Web site is secure if you’re entering any personal information (birth date, credit card number).
Be aware of people looking over your shoulder at your computer screen.
Always log off the computer. If you don’t log out, whoever uses the computer next could use your information to read your email or snoop around any website you visited.
How hotspots work:

Public wireless networks (or hotspots) are open for anyone to use without a password. You can use a laptop with a wireless card to pick up the Internet signal. Since hotspots are unprotected and available to anyone, hackers can access information more easily than a private home connection. Hotspots are great for checking email, chatting or casually surfing the Web, but you should be careful not to do too much private business—like banking or shopping.

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