Attempts to steal your identity are all too common in today's world. That is why we have created this Fraud Education Center to explain the many tricks and schemes used by crooks who try to steal your personal information.
Our hope is to help prevent you from becoming a victim. Should you have additional questions or if you believe that your personal information has been compromised, please call us toll free at 1-877-903-2265.
What you should know and actions to take:
Banks, credit card companies and other legitimate organizations with which you share your personal information spend tens of millions of dollars each year to protect it. While nothing is 100 percent foolproof, thieves have found that the weakest link is often the person whose identity they want to steal. Please remember:
- A bank or credit card company will never ask for your account number.
- If a request for your account information is made, do not provide it, but call your financial institution or card company immediately.
- Be wary of unsolicited correspondence or calls that promise you "free money." The old saying that, "If it is too good to be true, it probably is," is sound advice.
- Look for any unauthorized activity on your monthly bank statements.
- It is advisable to have a full credit report run annually to check for suspicious activity.
Below are several different methods that scammers will use to try and steal your personal information.
Phishing: These days, that email from your bank in your inbox could be real—or a phish attempt. Today’s thieves are busy impersonating legitimate businesses via email and websites in order to acquire your personal information like PINs, credit card or bank account numbers, or Social Security info. If you ever receive an email that you're not expecting, our suggestion is to call the institution sending the email to verify its validity prior to opening it. Note that you will never be asked for account information via phone or email by nearly all financial institutions.
Vishing: Email, texting, and websites are not the only way thieves are phishing for personal information. Vishing—voicecalls made to your land line or mobile phone—are an effective way for thieves to get your personal information. Again, we will never ask you for account information over the phone, and unless you call us, we will not ask you for any personal information.
SMSishing: Thieves are employing a sneaky new trend to get your personal info—sending text messages to your mobile device that impersonate a reputable contact and then direct you to a dangerous website with the goal of stealing your identity. Alliance Bank currently does not utilize text messaging as a means to market to you.
ATM Skimmers/Handheld Skimmers: Today’s thieves are innovating the way they steal your personal information, by swiping it—literally—when you are in the midst of a legitimate transaction such as paying for dinner bill at a restaurant, pumping gas, or using an ATM. It's always best to keep your card in sight when using it, but this often can't be avoided in restaurants or similar places. We recommend keeping receipts until transactions clear and keeping tabs on your account activity regularly for suspicious activity.
Overlays: Hidden devices can be installed almost imperceptibly on any ATM, enabling thieves to swipe your account information when you insert your card, and then transmit your account information to a nearby computer for future fraudulent use. Be sure and pay close attention on and around ATM stations for anything that looks unusual. Overlays actually fit over the normal card scanner on ATM stations, and while sometimes difficult to see, can be seen with close observation. If anything looks suspicious, DO NOT swipe your card, and contact local law enforcement and the bank with your concerns.
Shoulder Surfing: The prevalence of cameras and recorders in today’s mobile phones make this form of identity theft a real threat. Thieves position themselves within sight or earshot of your latest credit application, and record your information to commit future fraud. If you notice anyone getting a little too close at a teller window, ATM, retail checkout station, etc., kindly ask for your space and don't continue the transaction until you feel that your privacy is being respected.
Mail Theft: “Old school” thieves scout for unlocked mailboxes and steal your mail—and your identity—right from your front door. We suggest that you have a hold put on your mail if you'll be away for an extended time, or have a friend pick up your mail when you're away. Also, take note of when you should receive statements or other documents containing account information, and contact your financial institution if items don't seem to be arriving in a timely manner.
Change of Address: This is a classic identity theft technique—thieves change the address where you receive mail and divert your personal information into the wrong hands. Similar to mail theft, we suggest staying on top of what mail you should be receiving and when you should be receiving it. If there's a gap in receiving correspondence, we suggest contacting your bank or financial institution immediately to verify that everything with your account and identifying information is as it should be.
Dumpster Diving: This method of identity theft is one of the most traditional—and most effective. Thieves search your trash for documents that contain your personal information and gain access to important numbers that help them commit identity theft. It's always the best practice to shred personal or confidential documents prior to putting them out with the trash. A basic office shredder is a minimal investment to make in order to protect your information.
Stolen Wallet: When a thief steals your wallet, they gain instant access to the information they need to take the next step and steal your identity. We suggest keeping a list of contact information for any credit or debit cards kept in a purse or wallet. It's best to keep this list separate from the purse or wallet, so you can access it in the event a card is lost or stolen. If you should experience this, contact your financial institutions immediately to make them aware of the situation.
P2P File Sharing: Music sharing sites and other peer-to-peer networks have helped high-tech thieves get all kinds of personal information via accidental disclosure—tax returns, password files, birth dates, and account numbers. Anything stored on the same hard drive as the shared library can inadvertently go public when you connect. Be sure and only share folders with information that you truly wish to share, and also be aware of legal ramifications of sharing copyrighted media. We also suggest keeping your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date at all times to aid in deterring cyber criminals from stealing information from your personal computers.
Online Shopping: Thieves are experts at duplicating legitimate online storefronts. Before you know it, you’ve completed your transaction and inadvertently handed over the personal information they need to commit fraud. Always double check the address that you've browsed to. A simple miskey can lead you to a site that looks like the site you've planned to visit, but is in fact a duplicate site only designed to steal your credit card information. Look closely for spelling mistakes and typos in the address bar.
Data Breaches: According to Javelin Research, by the time financial institutions detect that a data breach has occurred, a fraud attempt has already been made in seven out of ten cases—without you even knowing that your personal information has been compromised. If you see a media outlet reporting a data breach with a large company, be sure and take note if this breach may affect you. Breaches could include credit card companies, retail vendors, banks, debit card companies, etc. Your bank/vendor/card company should contact you in the event of a data breach. If you feel that you are at risk in a data breach and have not been contacted, please contact your financial institution to verify.
Youth at Risk: Complaints by victims’ age points to an interesting statistic: incidents of fraud are low in consumers age 19 and younger, however complaints of identity theft are disproportionately higher—ripe for future fraud activity. Be sure and educate the young people in your life about the risks described above, and contact your financial institution(s) with any questions.