Online Security

Online Security

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Protecting your identity and personal information from prying eyes online is now becoming an increasingly difficult task.  Loopholes in your computer software abound, granting hackers, thieves and other malcontents easy and unhindered access to your confidential information.

This page serves as a good starting point for educating yourself on the many dangers that currently abound on the internet and the various methods you can use to protect yourself online.

This page has been divided into three easy sections:

  • 7 practices for Safer Computing provides practical advice on protecting yourself and your personal information from internet fraud.
  • Identity Theft is an entire section devoted to the topic of protecting yourself against this dangerous and fast-spreading threat.
  • Fake Checks Scams offers valuable information as to how fake check scams work, and how to avoid becoming a victim.

All the sections have been taken from the Federal Trade Commission's website on Identity Theft, the FakeChecks website, as well as OnGuardOnline, the FTC's website for practical information on protecting yourself online.

I. 7 Practices for Safer Computing

Seven practical tips for a safer online experience.

  1. Protect your personal information. It's valuable.
  2. Know who you're dealing with.
  3. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
  4. Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly.
  5. Protect your passwords.
  6. Back up important files.
  7. Learn who to contact if something goes wrong online.

 

II. Identity Theft

What is identity theft? 

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record.  Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

III. Fake Check Scams

How do fake check scams work?

There are many variations of the scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:

  • Buy something you advertised for sale.
  • Pay you to work at home.
  • Give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve won.
  • Give you the first installment on the millions you’ll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.

The scammers often claim to be in other countries and say it’s too difficult to pay you directly, so they’ll have someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check or money order.  The amount of the check or money order may be more than you’re owed, so you’re instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or to someone else. In some cases, the scammer promises to transfer money directly to your bank account. You provide your account information for an electronic fund transfer. Instead, the crook sends your bank a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. Whatever the set-up, the result is the same — after you’ve wired the money, you find out that the check or money order has bounced.

 

* Content for the articles in this section has been taken from the Federal Trade Commission Website, http://onguardonline.gov and their website on Identity Theft,http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ as well as the FakeChecks website athttp://www.fakechecks.org


7 Practices for Safer Computing

It's summer and phishing attempts are on the rise again. Please take the time to read this friendly reminder from your community bank in order to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.  

If nothing else, remember this phrase! 

“We will never call or email you to obtain your debit card number, account number, social security number or any other piece of personal information. “ Please do not provide this sensitive information to any callers, even if they appear to be legitimate. They may not be who they say they are.

Protect your computers and mobile devices

If you store sensitive information on your computer or mobile device, make sure it is encrypted and/or protected with a strong password. Use a variety of strong passwords to protect your online services such as email and banking - do not use the same password for everything.

Keep a close watch on your personal information

Your personal information resides in many places – know exactly where. Identity theft can start from obvious places like a lost wallet, to less obvious places such as your mailbox and trash. Wherever it resides, take steps to protect your personal information.

Be Alert.

If you receive an email that you did not expect, and it contains links or attachments, the best practice is to immediately delete it. Remember the phrase! If someone contacts you via phone claiming to be from your bank, and requests that you verify sensitive personal or account information, immediately hang up. Banks will never contact you for this information - if you are not sure, call them back using a number you already have (not one the caller gives you).

Do not click on web links or visit unknown websites. Never download something unless you know its true origin and that the source is legitimate.

Monitor your credit reports for questionable activity – the three major credit reporting agencies provide free annual reports.

Take Action.

If you suspect that personal sensitive information may have been lost or stolen, act quickly. File a police report, and obtain a copy for reference. Notify your financial institutions. Contact the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and place a “fraud alert” on your credit so that all requests for new credit accounts must be verified by you over the phone.

The safety and security of your personal information is of utmost importance to us. We hope that with these safeguards you will be better prepared when you are confronted with phishing attempts. We thank you for being a valued customer.

Identity Theft

Identity Theft is a very serious and growing problem that can leave a painful and lasting impression on your financial well-being.  Learn how to protect yourself against the many forms of identitfy theft by reading this short primer taken from the Federal Trade Commission website on Identity Theft.  For further information visit the identity theft website athttp://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

This section provides answers and resources to common Identity Theft questions, such as:

  • What is identity theft?
  • How do thieves steal an identity?
  • What do thieves do with a stolen identity?
  • How can you find out if your identity was stolen?
  • How long can the effects of identity theft last?
  • What should you do if your identity is stolen?
  • Should you file a police report if your identity is stolen?
  • How long can the effects of identity theft last?
  • What can you do to help fight identity theft?

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record.  Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

Click here to learn more.

How do thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.

Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including: dumpster diving, skimming, phishing, changing your address, old-fashioned stealing, pretexting.

Click here to learn more about how identity thieves work, including definitions of these terms.

 

What do thieves do with a stolen identity?

Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways: credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank/finance fraud, government documents fraud, among others.

Click here for more details.

How can you find out if your identity was stolen? 

The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.

Click here for more information.

What should you do if your identity is stolen?

Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name.

To learn more about these steps and more click here.

Should you file a police report if your identity is stolen?

A police report that provides specific details of the identity theft is considered an Identity Theft Report, which entitles you to certain legal rights when it is provided to the three major credit reporting agencies or to companies where the thief misused your information.  An Identity Theft Report can be used to permanently block fraudulent information that results from identity theft,such as accounts or addresses, from appearing on your credit report. It will also make sure these debts do not reappear on your credit reports. Identity Theft Reports can prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, or selling them to others for collection. An Identity Theft Report is also needed to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.

You may not need an Identity Theft Report if the thief made charges on an existing account and you have been able to work with the company to resolve the dispute.  Where an identity thief has opened new accounts in your name, or where fraudulent charges have been reported to the consumer reporting agencies, you should obtain an Identity Theft Report so that you can take advantage of the protections you are entitled to.

In order for a police report to entitle you to the legal rights mentioned above, it must contain specific details about the identity theft.  You should file an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC and bring your printed ID Theft Complaint with you to the police station when you file your police report.  The printed ID Theft Complaint can be used to support your local police report to ensure that it includes the detail required.

A police report is also needed to get copies of the thief’s application, as well as transaction information from companies that dealt with the thief.  To get this information, you must submit a request in writing, accompanied by the police report, to the address specified by the company for this purpose.

You can find more information by clicking here. 

How long can the effects of identity theft last?

It's difficult to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger. That's because it depends on many factors including the type of theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related to correcting your credit report.

Don't delay in correcting your records and contacting all companies that opened fraudulent accounts.  Make the initial contact by phone, even though you will normally need to follow up in writing.  The longer the inaccurate information goes uncorrected, the longer it will take to resolve the problem.

Click here to learn more about the lasting effects of identity theft.

What can you do to help fight identity theft?

A great deal.

Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms identity theft. Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.

Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community. The FTC has prepared a collection of easy-to-use materials to enable anyone regardless of existing knowledge about identity theft to inform others about this serious crime.

To learn more, click here.

Fake Check Scams

If someone you don’t know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware! It’s a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.

How do fake check scams work?


There are many variations of the scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:

  • Buy something you advertised for sale.
  • Pay you to work at home.
  • Give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve won.
  • Give you the first installment on the millions you’ll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.


The scammers often claim to be in other countries and say it’s too difficult to pay you directly, so they’ll have someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check or money order.  The amount of the check or money order may be more than you’re owed, so you’re instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or to someone else. In some cases, the scammer promises to transfer money directly to your bank account. You provide your account information for an electronic fund transfer. Instead, the crook sends your bank a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. Whatever the set-up, the result is the same — after you’ve wired the money, you find out that the check or money order has bounced.

Can my bank tell if the check or money order is good or not when I deposit it?


These fakes look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are counterfeit money orders, some are phony cashiers checks, and others look like they’re from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge. Under federal law, banks must make the funds you deposit available quickly — usually within one to five days. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good, even if it looks like a cashier’s check or money order from the post office. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered.

If the check or money order turns out to be fake, isn’t that the bank’s problem?


You are responsible for the checks and money orders you deposit. That’s because you’re in the best position to determine how risky the transaction is — you’re the one dealing directly with the person who is arranging for the payment to be sent to you. When a check or money order bounces, you owe your bank the money you withdrew. The bank may be able to take it from your accounts or sue you to recover it. In some cases, law enforcement authorities could bring charges against the victims because it may look like they were involved in the scam and knew the check or money order was counterfeit.

How do these scammers find their victims?


Fake check scammers scan newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. And they call or send emails or faxes to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.

How can I protect myself from fake check scams?


There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back — that’s a clear sign that it’s a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashiers check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a branch in your area.

If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don’t deposit it — report it! Contact the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center, www.fraud.org or toll-free 800-876-7060. There are also more detailed tips about fake check scams in the telemarketing and Internet fraud sections of the Web site.

* The information above has been taken from the National Consumers League Website on Fake Check Scams at http://www.fakechecks.org/prevention.html