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Identity Theft

Protect Your Financial Identity

Website for identity theft from the ABA Education Foundation

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing types of financial fraud. Without stealing your wallet, a crook can steal your financial identity with as little information as your social security number. It is also called “account-takeover fraud” or “true-name fraud,” and it involves crooks’ assuming your identity by applying for credit, running up huge bills and stiffing creditors – all in your name.

Take these steps to protect yourself:

  1. Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. It lists all of the lines of credit in your name. Check to be sure that everything is accurate, that all of the accounts are yours and that accounts you have requested to be closed are marked closed. Bureau reports cost around $8 each. But, if you’ve been turned down for credit, you are eligible for a free report.

To order credit bureau reports, call:

TransUnion Credit Services    800-888-4213
Equifax Credit Services    800-685-1111
Experian Credit Services    888-397-3742
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com

  1. Keep an eye on your accounts throughout the year by reading your monthly/periodic statements thoroughly. That’s an easy way for you to be sure that all of the activity in your accounts was initiated by you.
  2. Tear up or shred pre-approved credit offers, receipts and other personal information that link your name to account numbers. Don’t leave your ATM or credit card receipt in public trash cans. Crooks (a.k.a dumpster divers) are known to go through trash to get account numbers and other items that will give them just enough information to get credit in your name.
  3. If your credit card or other bills are more than two weeks late, you should do three things: First, contact the Postal Service to see if someone has forwarded your mail to another address. Second, contact your bank to ask if the statement or card has been mailed. Third, contact the businesses that send you bills.
  4. When you pay bills, don’t put them in your mailbox with the red flag up. That’s a flashing neon light telling crooks to grab your information. Use a locked mailbox or the post office.
  5. Protect your account information. Don’t write your personal identification number (PIN) on your ATM or debit card. Don’t write your social security number or credit card account number on a check. Cover your hand when you are entering your PIN number at an ATM.
  6. Don’t carry your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate unless you need it that day. Take all but one or two credit cards out of your wallet, and keep a list at home of your account information and customer service telephone numbers. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you’ll only have to notify a few of your creditors and the information will be handy.
  7. Never provide personal or credit card information over the phone, unless you initiated the call. Crooks are known to call with news that you’ve won a prize and all they need is your credit card number for verification. Don’t fall for it. Remember the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Take action if you are a victim:

  1. Financial fraud is a crime; call your local police department.
  2. Contact the fraud units of all three credit bureaus. Ask them to “flag” your account, which tells creditors that you are a victim of identity fraud. Also, add a victim’s statement to each of your credit bureau reports that asks creditors to contact you in person to verify all applications made in your name. Call the fraud units of the credit bureaus at:

TransUnion Fraud Assistance Department 800-680-7289
Equifax Fraud Assistance Department 800-525-6285
Experian Fraud Assistance Department 888-397-3742

  1. Call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft hotline at 1 (877) IDTHEFT. The hotline is staffed by counselors trained to help ID theft victims. Check out the FTC Web Site, which includes an Identity Theft Affidavit to help simplify the process of clearing up accounts opened by an identity thief.
  2. Notify your banks. They can help you obtain new account numbers for all of your checking, savings and other accounts. Be sure to pick a new PIN number for your ATM and debit cards. Close all of your credit card accounts and open with new account numbers.
  3. Notify the Postal Inspector if you suspect mail theft – a felony.
  4. Depending on your situation, you may want to contact the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security number. Their telephone number is 800-772-1213. You also may want to contact your telephone, long distance, water, gas and electrical companies to alert them that someone may try to open an account in your name.
  5. Finally, make sure to maintain a log of all the contacts you make with authorities regarding the matter. Write down each person’s name, title, and phone number in case you need to re-contact them or refer to them in future correspondence.
Phishing Scam

Don’t Get Lured into a Phishing Scam
from the ABA Education Foundation

Con artists now use email to try to hijack your personal financial information. In a scam known as “phishing,” swindlers claim to be from a reputable company and send out thousands of fake emails in hopes that consumers will respond with the bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

These emails can look quite convincing, with company logos and banners copied from actual Web sites. Often, they will tell you that their security procedure has changed or that they need to update (or validate) your information, and then direct you to a look-alike Web site. If you respond, the thieves use your information to order goods and services or obtain credit.

Consumer Tips

To avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam, the American Bankers Association offers these tips:

Never give out your personal financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax or email, no matter how official it may seem.

Do not respond to email that may warn of dire consequences unless you validate your information immediately. Contact the company to confirm the email’s validity using a telephone number or Web address you know to be genuine.

Check your credit card and bank account statements regularly and look for unauthorized transactions, even small ones. Some thieves hope small transactions will go unnoticed. Report discrepancies immediately.

When submitting financial information to a Web site, look for the padlock or key icon at the bottom of your browser, and make sure the Internet address begins with “https.” This signals that your information is secure during transmission.

Report suspicious activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

If you have responded to an email, contact your bank immediately so they can protect your account and your identity.

For more information on phishing, visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FTC on Phishing, or the IRS.

Spyware

Is somebody watching me?

Just when you thought you were Web savvy, one more privacy, security, and functionality issue crops up – spyware. Installed on your computer without your consent, spyware software monitors or controls your computer use. It may be used to send you pop-up ads, redirect your computer to websites, monitor your Internet surfing, or record your keystrokes, which, in turn, could lead to identity theft.

Many experienced Web users have learned how to recognize spyware, avoid it, and delete it. According to officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, all computer users should get wise to the signs that spyware has been installed on their machines, and then take the appropriate steps to delete it.

The clues that spyware is on a computer include:

  • a barrage of pop-up ads
  • a hijacked browser – that is, a browser that takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box
  • a sudden or repeated change in your computer’s Internet home page
  • new and unexpected toolbars
  • new and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen
  • keys that don’t work (for example, the “Tab” key that might not work when you try to move to the next field in a Web form)
  • random error messages
  • sluggish or downright slow performance when opening programs or saving files

The good news is that consumers can prevent spyware installation. Indeed, experts at the FTC and across the technology industry suggest that you:

Update your operating system and Web browser software. Your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that spyware could exploit.

Download free software only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software like games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, or other programs that may change or customize the functioning of your computer. Be aware, however, that some of these free software applications bundle other software, including spyware.

Don’t install any software without knowing exactly what it is. Take the time to read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before downloading any software. If the EULA is hard to find – or difficult to understand – think twice about installing the software.

Minimize “drive-by” downloads. Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads, for example, at least the “Medium” setting for Internet Explorer. Keep your browser updated.

Don’t click on any links within pop-up windows. If you do, you may install spyware on your computer. Instead, close pop-up windows by clicking on the “X” icon in the title bar.

Don’t click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software. Some software offered in spam actually installs spyware.

Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and will alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out.

If you think your computer might have spyware on it, experts advise that you take three steps: Get an anti-spyware program from a vendor you know and trust. Set it to scan on a regular basis – at least once a week – and every time you start your computer, if possible. And, delete any software programs the anti-spyware program detects that you don’t want on your computer.

For more information about protecting your computer and your personal information online, visit www.ftc.gov/infosecurity

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Beneficial Ownership Reporting Guidance

Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting directly to FinCEN, becomes compulsory January 1, 2024

The Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) establishes uniform beneficial ownership information reporting requirements for most companies, corporations, limited liability companies (LLC), and other similar entities, created in or registered in the United States.  The CTA authorizes FinCEN to collect that information and disclose it under certain conditions.  The goal of the CTA is to prevent the hiding of illicit actors and activities behind company structures.

Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting FAQs

Beneficial Ownership Information Report Filing Dates

Beneficial Ownership Reporting – Key Questions

Introductory video to Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Requirements

FinCEN Issues Initial Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Guidance