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ID Theft by Someone You Know

Identity theft can be by someone you know

Cases of identity theft are on the rise, according to a report released last month by the Financial Crimes Enforcement  Network (FinCEN). And this may come as a surprise: FinCEN also found that majority of identity theft incidents reported by U.S. financial institutions in 2009 didn’t relate to phishing attacks and spoofed website pages – they were instead linked to a victim’s family members or coworkers.

According to the FinCEN report identity theft perpetrated by family, friends and business partners ranked No. 1 among SARs filed by U.S. depository institutions in 2009. “In 27.5 percent of the filings, this was the highest,” said John Summers, a project officer at FinCEN. “It basically means someone close to them was getting access to their files and using their information.”

Consumers should take steps to protect their personal financial information, especially if they suspect that a family member, friend or coworker may not be trustworthy.  Here are a few tips to keep your financial information safe:

  • Protect your debit cards, credit cards, driver’s license and Social Security number, which contain vital personal and financial information.
  • Protect your financial records. Lock up records, statements and checkbooks in filing cabinets when you’re not using them.
  • Keep your computer passwords and PINs private, and use caution when checking online accounts on your personal or work computer.
  • Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card accounts.  Regularly review your monthly statements and check for purchases or transactions you did not make.  If you have online access to your accounts, you may want to review them on a weekly basis. 
  • Do not send personal information – including account numbers, Social Security numbers or passwords – in e-mail messages.
  • Be cautious who you ask to house-sit or pick up your mail when you’re on vacation. You can ask the post office to hold your mail, or you can switch to banking solely online so you don’t have to worry about your financial documents getting into the wrong hands.
  • Use caution when adding personal information to your social media profile.
  • If you share an apartment or dormitory, keep your personal financial information private. Your roommate may be trustworthy, but you may not know their friends and acquaintances.

If you suspect you’ve become a victim of identity theft, the American Bankers Association (ABA) offers the following tips:

  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report:

o   Equifax: (800) 525-6285;

o   Experian: (888) 397-3742; and

o   TransUnion: (800) 680-7289.

  • Close the accounts that may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  • File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or (877) 438-4338

 These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. For more information, go to www.iowabankers.com.

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