Fraud & Identity Theft
Security concerns make many people hesitant to use the internet for financial or personal business. At West Milton State Bank, it is our top priority to offer you both the convenience of online services along with industry-standard security. Rest assured that we’re doing everything we can to safeguard your financial information.
PROTECT YOUR ACCOUNT
How you can protect your checking account?
- Don’t give your account number and bank routing information to anyone you don’t know. Give out your account information for transactions only if you are familiar with the company you are dealing with. And if you have not done business with a company before, give out account information only if you have initiated the transaction. Criminals may ask you for your bank account number and then withdraw money from your account by creating a demand draft (sometimes called a “remotely created check”) or making an electronic transfer. They may also ask for your debit or credit card number and other personal information. Don’t fall for these scams and don’t let yourself be pressured into “free trial offers.” To be removed from telemarketing lists, sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry online or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-382-1222.
- STEPS TO RESOLVE YOUR IDENTITY
Take action quickly. You still can limit the damage by taking immediate steps to alert banks and creditors about the theft. The FTC recommends ID theft victims take the following four steps immediately and keep a detailed record of all conversations and copies of all correspondence.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports to prevent thieves from opening more accounts in your name by calling one of the three major report companies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Request that credit bureaus identify accounts closed due to fraud as “closed at consumer’s request.”
- Contact your bank and close all accounts that you know, or think, have been tampered with fraudulently.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to help law enforcement agencies track down identity thieves and stop them.
- File a police report with your local authorities or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. For further tips and information on ID theft or to file a complaint, visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Site, or call the FTC’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-Theft (438-4338).
- STEPS TO RESOLVE YOUR IDENTITY
- Review your monthly statement. Make sure all the checks, debits, automatic payments, and other withdrawals are ones you authorized. If you see a transaction you did not authorize, notify your bank immediately. With online banking, you don’t have to wait until your bank statement comes – you can check your transactions at any time.
- Notify your bank about any problems as soon as possible. The sooner you alert your bank to a problem, the sooner they can get it resolved. In some cases, your bank may require you to notify them in writing. Keep copies of any documents you give the bank until the problem is resolved. If you think the problem is a result of fraud, you should also contact your state attorney general.
- If you don’t have enough money in your account, don’t write the check or authorize the debit. Checks are being processed more quickly these days, which means the money may be debited from your account sooner.Also, many stores and utility, insurance, and credit card companies will convert your check to an electronic payment, which also means the money will be debited from your account sooner. If you don’t have enough money in your account when you write a check or authorize a debit, you could find yourself paying a fee. For more information, see the Federal Reserve Board’s publications “What You Should Know about Your Checks” and “Protecting Yourself from Overdraft and Bounced-Check Fees”.
- Know your rights under consumer protection laws. If you have a problem with an electronic debit or electronic fund transfer, you have certain rights under the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), as explained in the Board’s “Consumer Handbook to Credit Protection Laws”. You also have rights under the EFTA if you have a problem with a check that has been converted, as described in the Board brochure “When Is Your Check Not a Check?” The Federal Trade Commission’s publication “Automatic Debit Scams” explains your rights and what to do if you have a problem with a demand draft or remotely created check.
- Use Precautions When Using an ATM
- Always observe the ATM surroundings before conducting a transaction.
- Block the view of others when using an ATM to make sure they cannot see your Personal Identification Number (PIN).
- Look for possible fraudulent devices attached to an ATM. If anything looks suspicious, go to another machine.
- Never allow a cashier or any other person to enter your PIN for you.
- Minimize time spent at an ATM by having your card ready.
- When using a drive-up ATM after dark, keep your doors locked, passenger windows rolled up and headlights on when conducting your transaction.
- If using an ATM at night, try to take someone with you.
- Check your ATM receipts against your monthly bank statements, just as you do your cancelledchecks.
- Don’t store the magnetic strip on the back of your ATM card against the magnetic strip of another credit card in your purse or wallet. It will corrupt the strip and make your card un-useable.
- If you think you are being followed after leaving an ATM, call 911.
- If you see overgrown shrubbery, poor lighting or other potential hazards at your bank’s ATM, report it to your bank immediately.
- Your ATM card is the same as cash, so make sure you keep it in a safe place. Keep your PIN a secret and don’t disclose confidential information about your card over the telephone or the Internet.
What is Phishing?
PHISHING – Fraudulent emails, appearing to be from a trusted source such as West Milton State Bank, or a government agency, directing you to fraudulent websites. Once there, you are asked to verify personal information such as name, account numbers, credit card numbers and passwords. These sites are often designed to look exactly like the site they are imitating.
Follow these Cyber-Defense Tactics:
If you get an email that warns you – with little or no notice – that an account of yours will be shut down or interest suspended unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, contact the legitimate company cited in the email using a telephone number or web address you know to be genuine.
Avoid emailing personal and/or financial information. West Milton State Bank will never ask you to provide personal information such as account numbers or passwords in an email.
Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar before submitting financial information through any web site. It signals that your information is secure during transmission.
Review credit card and bank statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are unauthorized charges.
Report suspicious activity to the FTC – send the actual spam email to email@example.com. If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint, then visit the FTC’s identity theft website to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from identity theft.
Be Aware of the Numerous Scams
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Most scam artists take advantage of the fact that the bank often must make deposited funds available to you before the deposited check is known to be fraudulent. The many technological advances are also making it easier for scams to take place. Keep in mind that when you deposit or cash a check, you are basically acknowledging that you believe it is a good check and that it will be paid by the person who wrote it. If the check turns out to be a counterfeit, you will be responsible to pay back the bank for the full amount.
Lottery Scams. You receive a large check, along with a letter stating that you have won a lottery, usually located in a foreign country. The instructions tell you to deposit the check and wire a portion of it back to cover fees or taxes on your winnings. By the time the check is returned as a counterfeit, you have already wired the money from your account. You will be responsible for the total amount of the check. Keep in mind that it is against the laws of the United States to buy or sell lottery tickets across the border, so any letter claiming that you have won a foreign lottery is a scam.
Internet Purchase Scams. You sell an item on the internet, but the buyer sends you a check for an amount greater than the purchase price. The buyer asks you to wire back the extra amount. By the time the check is returned as a counterfeit, you have already wired the money from your account. You will be responsible to pay back the full amount of the check. If you sell on the internet, only accept checks for the exact amount of the purchase. Request a cashier’s check rather than a personal check, but remember that even a cashier’s check is not a guarantee of authenticity.
On-line Romance Scams. You’ve met someone special on-line. Maybe they live in a foreign country and have a check in US dollars that they aren’t able to cash. Or they claim to have a medical or other emergency, and need your help getting a check cashed. Or they promise to come to be with you, and need you to cash a check to cover travel expenses. If you agree to cash the check, you will be responsible for the entire amount when it turns out to be counterfeit. You should never cash a check for someone, unless it is an immediate family member.
Faith-Based Scams. It is estimated that more than 90,000 people nationwide have lost nearly $2 billion to “faith-based” investment scams during the past three years.
According to state securities regulators, faith-based investment scams have risen dramatically. Con artists will use religion to promote their scams by using their interpretation of biblical prophecy to predict imminent financial or social crises. Some claim they will reinvest the money in a worthy cause.
Before making any such investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if this investment is licensed in your state. To find your state securities regulator, you may log on to the North American Securities Administrators Association website. Additionally, make sure the seller has provided you with written information fully explaining the investment and verify this information with your local banker or financial advisor.
Work-at-Home Scams. You’re promised easy money for working at home. All you have to do is process payments: your employer will send you checks which you deposit into your account. You then wire them the money minus your “pay”. You’re responsible for the full amount when the checks turn out to be counterfeit. Legitimate businesses don’t work this way; they deposit payments into their own account.
Home Improvement Scams. Unfortunately, many home improvement “contractors” target unwary consumers — especially elderly people living alone — with high-pressure techniques to sell unnecessary and overpriced “home improvements”.
Home improvement scams top the list of national consumer complaints. A common scam to be on the lookout for is the contractor who offers to reseal your driveway. He’s been working in the neighborhood and just happens to have some materials leftover and will reseal your driveway for a nominal fee of $50.00. After he finishes the work, he may ask for $2,000.00 and threaten to call law enforcement officials if you don’t pay. Many people will unwittingly pay the $2,000.00 before realizing they’ve been “had”.
Another rip-off might involve the “contractor” who comes to your door saying that while working on another house in the neighborhood, he noticed that your roof had some serious ice or snow damage. He will then quote a price for “minor” repair and probably do nothing. He will then tell you the damage was more extensive than he thought and ask for a much larger amount of money.
Rule number one when dealing with home improvement contractors: Be wary of a salesperson who appears at your door uninvited.
Telephone Scams. If you’re age 60 or older, you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by phone. Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the US; every year consumers lose anywhere from a few dollars to their life savings to telephone con artists. You’re encouraged to be skeptical when you receive a telephone solicitation. To eliminate most telemarketing calls, you can sign up for the free National Do Not Call Registry. Or call 888-382-1222 from the phone number (home phone or cell phone) you want to register.
False Promises to Erase Bad Credit. “Don’t worry about bad credit. For only $29.99, we’ll erase your bad credit history and provide you with a fresh start!” Heard that one before? Don’t believe it or you may be throwing much more than $29.99 down the drain. Some of these so-called “credit repair” companies have charged their customers thousands of dollars to do what you can do for yourself.
Basically, anything that a credit repair service can provide, you can accomplish on your own. You may decide that you would rather a reputable company do the “leg-work” for you, but make sure you understand what they can and cannot legally do and make sure they are legitimate.
First, understand that if accurate negative information appears on your credit report, nothing but time and slowly rebuilding your credit history will solve the problem. The negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years.
Sometimes a fraudulent credit repair scam will offer to provide customers with a new social security number so they can create a new credit file. This practice is called “file segregation” and it is illegal. If you file fraudulent information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, you could be charged with a federal crime and chances are the credit repair scam artist will be long gone.
If, in fact, the credit repair company is able to provide you with a new credit card, it will probably be a “secured” credit card, which you have to “secure” with a cash deposit in order to draw on the credit line. Additionally, you are probably looking at a high application fee and high interest charges.
It is also a federal crime for a credit repair company to make false claims about their services. Be aware that the company cannot charge you until they have performed the promised services. These companies also need to provide you with a written contract that details what services they will provide, the total cost, and the length of time it will take to achieve results. The company must also inform customers that they have three days to cancel their contract at no charge.
If you feel you have been defrauded by a credit repair scam artist, contact the Consumer Affairs Division of the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
If you find yourself with a bad credit history, you should obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. If you find erroneous information on your report, you should write to each of the three bureaus and provide corrected information. If you’ve been denied credit in the past 60 days, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Phased in over the next year, credit bureaus will be required to provide a free credit report upon request in all 50 states.
Remember, bad credit can be repaired only if you approach it with disciplined and sensible financial management. Once you establish a new reliable payment history, your chances of receiving the credityou need will improve.
RED FLAGS OF IDENTITY THEFT
• Mistakes on your bank, credit card, or other account statements
• Mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
• Your regular bills and account statements don’t arrive on time
• Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
• Calls from debt collectors about debts that don’t belong to you
• A notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security number
• Mail, email, or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child’s name
• Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
• Businesses turn down your checks
• You are turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job
Provided as a public service by Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.
Note: These tips are intended to provide accurate, yet general consumer information. They are not intended to provide legal, accounting or other professional services. Please contact a professional service provider for specific questions.