An important announcement from Heartland Bank
Identity theft is a serious problem affecting millions of people each year. It involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and mother’s maiden name, in order to impersonate them. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business. Because of the nature of the crime, victims often do not realize their identity has been stolen until they are denied credit, turned down for a job or sent a bill for purchases they did not make. Remember that cyber security is a shared responsibility!
Keep an Eye on Your Financial Information
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You don’t have to ask all three credit bureaus for your reports at the same time; you can stagger your requests (one every three months) so that you can view your report over the entire year. They are available by calling 1-877-322-8228 or visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Review credit card, telephone, cellular phone and bank statements for irregularities and be aware of your billing cycles. Contact creditors immediately if you find a discrepancy or if you don’t receive a bill when expected. If possible, close all accounts that are no longer needed and ask the company to verify in writing that the account has in fact been closed.
Dispose of Your Unwanted Mail Carefully
To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, always thoroughly shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards, credit offers and anything else that has personal information that you get in the mail.
Keep Your Information Safe
Your Social Security number (SSN) is the key that unlocks your personal identity. Don’t give out personal information (especially your SSN) on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’re absolutely certain who you are dealing with. Ask your health insurance provider and other companies that may use your SSN as your identification number if they can provide you with a substitute number to use instead. It’s also a good idea to remove extraneous information such as middle name, phone number, SSN or driver’s license number from your checks.
Beware of Phishing
Phishing is a term used when scammers falsify their identity, normally by stating they represent a legitimate corporation or governmental agency. They then try to entice the consumer into revealing their personal information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, or other sensitive data. Phishing attacks can happen through either the Internet, email, regular mail, or your telephone. Regardless of what method is used, it is important to remember that you should never reveal your personal information, unless you’re certain of who will be receiving it.
Be Cautious When Using the Internet/Protect your PINS and other Passwords
Place passwords on all of your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date and the last four digits of your SSN, your phone number, etc. Long combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters make the strongest passwords. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. It’s very important to be cautious with your emails and do not open any links unless you’re absolutely certain who sent you the email. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities (including keystrokes in the hopes to obtain personal data) on the Internet without your knowledge.
Receiving a lot of unwanted junk-mail (paper and electronic) and pre-approved credit offers can be another way of making you more vulnerable to identity theft. If you want to halt the unnecessary mail, send “opt-out” letters to businesses you have a relationship with (such as your financial institutions, mortgage company, telephone company, charities, credit card companies, etc.) restricting them from selling, renting, distributing or exchanging your personal information.
Take Action Immediately if You Suspect Identity Theft
- Contact Heartland Bank and any other credit card companies immediately to dispute any unknown charges and/or request a lock or closure of your account.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file with one of the three credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). Fraud alerts last 90 days but can be renewed. A fraud alert is free, but you must be able to provide proof of your identity.
- Immediately contact all creditors with whom your identity has been fraudulently used, by telephone and mail. Obtain new account numbers for those compromised accounts.
- Order a copy of your credit report and review for mystery accounts
- Scan credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges
- File a police report in the jurisdiction where you reside.
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service, if offered as a result of a data breach
So, while it may be impossible to completely eliminate the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft, there are many preventative steps a consumer can take to ensure the security of their financial identity. If you remember to be vigilant at all times and know what to be aware of, you’ll be successful in keeping your personal and financial information safe and secure. We’re dedicated to providing you with financial privacy and security awareness so if you've got questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-697-0049.