Recently I received an email from what appeared to be from my bank. The email notified me that there was strange activity to my online account and I needed to verify certain personal information within 48 hours or my account would be deleted. After reading the email I panicked. So, out of fear, I opened the attachment to get further instructions on what I needed to do to keep my online account active. I begin reading the attachment and I noticed it was asking for some really personal account information, like, my account number, my debit card number, my address, etc. Then something hit me and I thought, “Maybe I should call my bank first and make sure this is actually from them.” I spoke to a telephone banker and she assured me there was nothing wrong with my account and this was a fraud case. She instructed me to forward the email to their online fraud alert system. My heart dropped. My account could have been wiped out!
This week, Money Management International is participating in National Protect Your Identity Week – a national campaign focused on teaching consumers the risk and potential dangers of identity theft. ID thieves are going to great lengths to obtain your identity. Each year approximately 10 million United States citizens are victims of ID theft. After going back and reading the initial email, I realized there were a lot of warning signs.
- The email’s opening paragraph began, “Dear Esteemed Bank Customer.” They sure are being impersonal for something so serious. The bank would have used my actual name in telling me my account is in jeopardy of closing.
- All the emails I get from my bank already have the external content downloaded. This one did not.
- The bank’s logo was in a different font size and type from my other emails.
As the number of ID theft cases continue to climb each year, consumers need to take extra precautions to safeguard personal information. Below are a few tips on protecting your ID.
- Never give out personal information via the internet. Banks will never ask you to submit personal information online. If there is a problem the bank will contact you directly and ask you to go into a local branch office to speak to a representative. Banks will also never just close out your account without proper notification.
- Be cautious of anything that gives you a limited time to do something or “severe action will be taken.” This is a scare motive designed to get people to act unreasonable. Take time to verify information with the proper representatives.
- Set up spam control on your computer and install firewall protection so thieves cannot steal your credit card information when banking or shopping online.
- Limit the number of contents in your wallet. Do not carry all your credit cards at one time and every day. Do not carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, Medicare card, or any other governmental identification with you. Store these documents in a safe, moisture free area. Find a place thieves cannot easily locate and one that you will not forget.
- Properly dispose of any unneeded financial records such as old bank statements. Buy a shredder to destroy these documents. One trick I like to do is put shredded paper in two different garbage cans so that connecting information can’t be pieced together.