Over half of Americans report using the Internet for banking, and that number is rising. The surplus of financial information floating around cyberspace is a lure for identity thieves. Identity theft occurs when your personal information is unknowingly stolen and then used to commit fraud and other crimes. Anyone is a potential victim of identity theft, from infants to the elderly. What most people don't know is that often, identity thieves don't use high-tech, complicated software or programming tricks to accomplish their crimes. They simply compile data in creative ways. So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Know what's in your wallet/purse. In the event your purse or wallet is stolen/lost, you should know everything that's in it so you can act quickly to prevent identity theft and fraud. Know which credit cards you need to cancel, and keep photocopies of each card in a safe place. Having these copies will help when you need to know account numbers to cancel the cards. Also be aware of the information on your cell phone. Home, work and bank phone numbers can give potential identity thieves a lot of sensitive information.
Shred anything with sensitive information. Never throw out or recycle documents with personal information on them without shredding them first. Consider switching to e-statements or electronic billing when possible to reduce the amount of paper you'll need to keep track of.
Search for your information online. An identity thief doesn't need to go dumpster diving if you post personal information online. Spend some time trying to break into your own account. Blogs, social media profiles and online resumes are treasure-troves of information for criminals. When creating passwords and updating accounts, remember that most password recovery systems use a "security question" system and then send a new or temporary password to your email account. Information like mother's maiden name, first pet and the street you grew up on are common, so make sure that information isn't readily available online.
What if your identity is stolen?
Identity theft is a serious matter to Middleton Community Bank. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
1. Call Deposit Operations at (608)824-3200.
2. Notify the major credit reporting agencies (credit bureaus). Call the fraud departments of all three credit bureaus. Ask them to put a "fraud alert" on your file. This tells creditors to call you before they open any accounts in your name:
• Equifax: 800-525-6285
• Experian: 888-397-3742
• TransUnion: 800-680-7289
To request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (i.e., Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) , visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call1-877-322-8228.
3. Notify your local law enforcement agency to file an Identity Theft Report
Resources. Wisconsin offers a wealth of assistance related to the risk of I.D. theft, including classes, fact sheets, and online information. Here are a few places to start:
• The Office of Privacy Protection in the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has taught thousands of consumers, businesses, and law enforcement agencies about I.D. theft and fraud prevention. Fact sheets available in English, Spanish, and Hmong cover such topics as protecting your identity while shopping, medical I.D. theft, and safeguarding your Social Security number: http://privacy.wi.gov/factsheets/factsheets.html.
• The Department of Financial Institutions offers a list of frequently asked questions to help prevent I.D. theft and steps to take if you become the victim of I.D. theft: http://www.wdfi.org/wca/faq.htm#preventidtheft.
• The Wisconsin Department of Justice offers prevention tips and contacts to help if you experience I.D. theft: http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/ConsProt/cp_identitytheft.asp. It also offers a Consumer Protection Hotline: 800-998-0700 or 608-266-1852.
• The Wisconsin Attorney General's office provides a brochure on protecting your name and credit, including a list of how thieves may access your personal information: http://www.doj.state.wi.us/docs/ID_theft_broc.pdf.
• The Identity Theft Resource Center provides links to Wisconsin laws addressing I.D. theft, scam alerts, and a reference library: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/states/Wisconsin.shtml.