What is Financial Identity Theft?
Identity theft and fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s data and personal information, typically for economic gain. The type of information gathered and used can range from your contact information to your Social Security Number, credit cards or other sensitive Personal Identifying Information (PII). When a bad actor gets this information, they can use it to achieve a range of goals.
Types of Financial Identity Theft
Financial Identity Theft has a range of methods. Bad actors may use stolen credit card information to buy things online, or a stolen physical card for in-person purchases. By accessing your financial accounts they may also steal or transfer funds. If someone has access to your Social Security Number and other information, they may use that information to open new lines of credit or accounts.
Examples of Financial Identity Theft
- Phishing: Posing as a trusted company, such as a credit union or an online retailer, scammers contact individuals via a phishing email, text message or phone call regarding fraudulent purchases on their account. Due to the concerning nature of the message, victims of these scams are tricked into clicking a link, opening an attachment, or providing sensitive information over the phone. The scammers then utilize the provided financial and/or account data to access accounts and transfer funds.
- Online shopping: An individual makes an online purchase using their debit or credit card. Unknown to them, the website was not set up with a secure transaction processing system, thus revealing their card information to a hacker. The hacker collecting the card information runs a few small test transactions on the card to see if it is active and able to use. Once the card has been tested, the person stealing the card will begin to make large purchases or transactions, typically online.
- Data breach: A company that you have an account with experiences a data breach exposing personal information, potentially including login details, social security number, and/or account number. Through additional data-gathering efforts, using your social media profiles and/or phishing campaigns, the bad actors are able to gather enough information to take over online accounts, open a line of credit under your name, or make financial transactions on your accounts.
- Personal information sharing: A person reveals their online banking information to a trusted individual without adding them as a registered name on the account. As a result, there is no distinction for the financial institution between who is logging in or making changes to the account. This extra individual with access starts wiring money out of the account to another account of theirs.
How do I spot Identity Theft?
Typically, people do not notice identity theft until it has already had an impact. However, there are a few ways that you can stay ahead of criminals attempting this sort of fraud, such as looking for random charges or money transfers from bank accounts, denied transactions, credit monitoring alerts, and bizarre login notifications. A top method of staying on top of fraud is using credit monitoring services.
How can I protect myself further?
There are many ways one can reduce the risk of identity theft. Below is a simple list of tips that can help you.
- Set up alerts on your accounts. By using account alerts in online banking or our mobile app, via our My Cards service, you can be notified about account deposits, transactions and much more. Seeing an unexpected or unusual transaction can allow you to act fast.
- Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for each account. By having a different password, you reduce the risk a hacker can use one password for multiple accounts.
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security as you will verify login attempts with an additional notification. This also allows you to deny unauthorized login attempts if an account becomes compromised.
- Freeze your credit. By freezing your credit with all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), new credit files cannot be opened. Freezing and unfreezing are free, and it allows you to control when you want to open new accounts.
- Protect your Social Security Number. Do not share it without confirming why it is needed and how it will be protected. Store your Social Security card and other sensitive documents safely, preferably in a locked location.
- When you are done with sensitive documents, shred them. If a document contains identifying information (name, address, account numbers, etc.), shred it before disposing of it.
- Use a digital wallet. If you have an Apple, Android, or Google device, you can configure your phone or watch for tap payments. These digital wallets are encrypted which makes your transactions safer.