How to Help Prevent Identity Theft

In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or even banking information. Spammers and those who create viruses can use counterfeit (forged) e-mail addresses in the “From:” field of outgoing messages. This practice hides the real source of the message, and also makes it easier to trick the recipient into thinking the source is legitimate (from a trusted source). The sender may ask the recipient for personal information, such as Social Security Number, bank account number and PIN, credit card number and PIN, driver license number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, account passwords, or home address. If the recipient thinks the message is from a known source, he or she may be more likely to respond and provide the information requested.

As a precaution, never respond to unsolicited e-mail messages that ask for any personal identifying information. Guard against these scams. Ask why before giving out your personal information to others. Be alert if you receive an unexpected e-mail that sounds too good to be true or that states your account will be closed unless you confirm your account/personal information. Don’t reply or click on any links within the e-mail body. If you need to go the company’s web site, type the address that you know into the browser’s URL address line - don’t use the link they send you. If you’re uncertain about the request, contact the company through an address or telephone number you know that is legitimate. Check your credit card, checking account, and other bank statements regularly and verify that all of the transactions posted are legitimate. For more information about suspicious business offers and other attempts to obtain your personal information and/or money, check these Web sites: