April 10, 2017

Be on the lookout for fake checks. They may look legitimate, but can be easily faked.

Don’t be pressured into wiring or sending money after depositing a check. If you send money to a scammer, the funds may be impossible to recover.

You may be responsible for repaying the funds if you deposit a fake check and withdraw money, even if you were scammed.


Identity Theft

Are you at risk of becoming an identity theft victim?​

Identity (ID) theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or Social Security number, to commit fraud. The identity thief can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name. You may not know that you are the victim of ID theft until you experience a financial consequence (mystery bills, credit collections, denied loans) down the road from actions that the thief has taken with your stolen identity. Learn what ste​​ps you can take to prevent and report identity theft.


How Thieves Get Your Information

Identity theft affects people of all ages, races and nationalities. Anyone can be a victim. Thieves use many tactics to get your information. Some of the most common are:

  1. Stealing wallets that contain personal identification information and credit cards.
  2. Stealing credit union statements from the mail.
  3. Diverting mail from its intended recipients by submitting a change of address form.
  4. Rummaging through trash for personal data.
  5. Stealing personal identification information from workplace records.
  6. Intercepting or otherwise obtaining information transmitted electronically.

Preventing Identity Theft

  1. Do not share personal information. Whether over the telephone, through the mail, or on the Internet, do not share your financial account information or Social Security numbers unless you know the person requesting the information is who he or she claims to be.
  2. Control access to your financial information. Store your personal information in a safe place, and tear up or shred old credit card and ATM receipts, old account statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  3. Protect your PINs and other passwords. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, or your phone number, as identity thieves can use this information to access your accounts.
  4. Carry only the minimum amount of identifying information and number of credit cards that you need.
  5. Monitor billing cycles and statements. Contact the credit union if you do not receive a monthly bill. It may mean that an identity theft diverted the bill.
  6. Check account statements carefully. Ensure that you authorized all charges, share drafts, or withdrawals on the statement.
  7. Guard your mail from theft. If you have the type of mailbox with a flag to signal that the box contains mail, do not leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox with the flag raised. Instead, deposit them in a post office collection box or at the local post office. Remove incoming mail promptly.
  8. Monitor your credit report. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each credit reporting agency annually. Learn more.
  9. Opt out of pre-approved credit cards, direct mail lists and telephone solicitation.

To stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers, request to opt out online​ or call 888-5-OPT-OUT (567-8688).

To reduce the number of phone solicitations you receive from national marketers, register for the National Do Not Call Registry.

To remove your name from many national direct mail lists, visit the Direct Marketing Association’s DMA Choice tool.

If You Think You are a Victim

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, use the Identity Theft Checklist.

  1. Place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies.
  2. Order credit reports from the credit reporting agencies to review and identify inaccuracies.
  3. Create an identity theft report, which involves obtaining an Identity Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and filing a police report.

Additionally, order new credit or debit cards for any accounts involved in the theft. Or, you may want to close the accounts altogether.

For more information about what to do next, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft center, or call the identity theft hotline at 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).

Identity Theft Protection Services

Identity theft protection services can help you monitor your accounts, place fraud alerts or freezes on your credit reports, and remove your name from marketing mailing lists. Some people find it valuable and convenient to pay a company to keep track of their financial accounts, credit reports and personal information. Many people choose to do this on their own for free. Before you pay for a service, evaluate it and its track record before you pay any fees.

Identity theft protection companies may help you: 

  • "Lock," "flag," or "freeze" your credit reports
  • Place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your reports
  • Renew or update your alerts or freezes automatically

An identity theft victim can place a fraud alert or renewal for free.

Some companies, including consumer reporting agencies, offer subscriptions to credit monitoring services. These services track your credit report, and generally send you an email about recent activity, like an inquiry or new account.

Other companies offer services to help you rebuild your identity after a theft. Typically, you give these services a limited power of attorney, which allows them to act on your behalf when dealing with consumer reporting agencies, creditors, or other information sources.

Many companies offer additional services, including removing your name from mailing lists or pre-screened offers of credit or insurance, representing your legal interests, “guaranteeing” reimbursement in the event you experience a loss due to identity theft, or helping you track down whether your personal information has been exposed online.

Data Breaches

You may hear about it on the news or receive a notice from a store or financial institution you use telling you about a data breach. A data breach occurs when your information is stolen or accidentally left vulnerable to theft, enabling thieves to steal your identity. Data breaches can result from computer hacking, computer virus, the physical theft of documents or computer equipment, or by accident (such as emailing information to the wrong address). Companies and government departments are required to notify you once they discover a breach, but the notification period varies by state. Read more​ if you suspect, or have been notified, that your information has been compromised due to a data breach.

Pretext Phone Scams

Scam artists may call you pretending to be from your credit union or another institution you’ve used in the past. The scam artist gives you a false reason for the call, which is known as a “pretext.”

If scam artists succeed in tricking you to give them personal information, they can then sell it to debt collection services, attorneys, and private investigators to use in court proceedings. Identity thieves may also engage in pretext calling to obtain personal information to create fraudulent accounts.

Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job. For important tips on preventing tax identity theft, visit our Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week page.

Synthetic ID Theft

Synthetic identity theft is a new version of identity theft. In traditional ID theft, the thief steals all of the personal information of one person to create a new identity. However, with synthetic ID theft, a thief steals pieces of information from different people to create a new identity. For example, the thief may steal one person’s Social Security number, combine it with another person’s name, and use someone else’s address to create a brand new identity. The thief can then use this fraudulent identity to apply for credit, rent an apartment or make major purchases.

Unfortunately, synthetic ID theft is difficult to detect because the fraud isn’t directly tied to just one person. Fraud alerts and monitoring services would not be able to stop or prevent these scams. Also, children’s Social Security numbers are often targeted in these frauds, because no one would be checking their credit scores until they are much older.

While you cannot prevent synthetic ID theft, you should still get copies of your credit report to check for accounts you did not open. Also, contact the credit reporting agencies to ask if there is a fragmented file (a sub-account that uses your Social Security number but not your name) attached to your main credit file. If this is the case, you may be the victim of synthetic identity theft. Report all cases of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

- USA.gov


Federal Trade Commission - IdentityTheft.gov 

The Federal Trade Commission has launched IdentityTheft.gov, a resource that makes it easier for identity theft victims to report and recover from identity theft. A Spanish version of the site is also available at RobodeIdentidad.gov.

The new website provides an interactive checklist that walks people through the recovery process and helps them understand which recovery steps should be taken upon learning their identity has been stolen. It also provides sample letters and other helpful resources.

In addition, the site offers specialized tips for specific forms of identity theft, including tax-related and medical identity theft. The site also has advice for people who have been notified that their personal information was exposed in a data breach.​