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Protect Yourself From Identity Theft & Other Fraud
Identity theft is when someone uses your name, address, Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.
By stealing business records, mail, purses and wallets; by rummaging through trash; and by fraudulently obtaining credit reports, thieves may gain access to your personal identifying information.
Using stolen personal information, identity thieves go on spending sprees, open new credit accounts, run up charges on your credit card accounts, take out auto loans, establish phone or wireless service, drain your bank accounts, write bad checks, or even declare bankruptcy! Identity thieves will also use a "stolen identity" to give to the police during an arrest. All of which can create credit problems for you that can linger.
Don't get caught by "Phishing"
If you get an e-mail that warns you that an account of yours will be shut down unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply, do not click on the link in the e-mail and do not use any phone numbers in the e-mail. Instead, contact the company cited in the e-mail by a phone number or Website address that you trust. See the latest paper statement from the company for the correct information. Warning: these e-mail messages look very much like they came from a legitimate company, using that company's logos and type styles. The nickname for this type of fraud is "phishing", a punk version of fishing for account information.
How Do I Know That It's a Phishing E-Mail?
- No credit union, bank, or company you deal with will ever ask for personal and private information in an e-mail. For instance, BTFCU already knows its members' account numbers. We do not know your PINs or passwords. That information is encrypted on our computers. There is no reason to ask you for that information.
- Check out the link. If an e-mail contains a link to a website, hold your cursor over the link (but don't click it!). In the lower left corner of the browser window, the actual address should appear. All BTFCU web pages begin with "www.btcu.org" and end with the actual page ("www.btcu.org/id_theft.html"). Phishing pages will often have numerical IP addresses (http://220.127.116.11) or web addresses like "www.btcu.org.someboguscompany.de"
- Check for the padlock icon. Any pages that request information (for instance, an online loan application) should be "secure" pages. You can tell it is a secure page by looking for a padlock symbol in the lower-right portion of the browser. If you double-click the lock symbol, a window will pop up showing the issuer of the secure certificate (Network Solutions, Thawte, etc.) and to whom the certificate was issued. The details tab will show you more information. The page address will also start with "https" instead of just "http". In order for an organization like BTFCU to get a certificate, it must undergo a thorough search process in which the issuer determines that we are indeed who we say we are. Illegitimate sites will either have NO secure certificate or padlock, or the organization the certificate is issued to is not the same as the organization they claim to be. See Thawte's website https://www.thawte.com/siteseal/trustedlink.htm .
How do you avoid Identity Theft?
Here's a list compiled by the National Center for Credit Unions:
- Don't trust unsolicited phone calls. If you get a phone call asking you to verify account information for any reason, hang up immediately. Your Credit Union will never do this, nor will any legitimate bank, credit card company or other financial institution.
- Don't e-mail financial information. Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. Before submitting financial information through a website, look for the "lock" icon on the browser's status bar. Don't use if if you don't see it.
- Review Statements Immediately. Review credit card, Credit Union, and bank account statements as soon as they arrive to see if there are any unauthorized charges. If a statement is late by more than a couple of days, call the credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
- Check your credit report for accounts or activity that you did not initiate. Failing to receive bills or other mail may signal an address change by an identity thief. Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply, being denied credit for no apparent reason, or receiving calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services that you did not buy could be indications or identity theft.
- Report suspicious activity. Report suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Send actual spam to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the FTC's Identity Theft website (http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft) for more.
Phishing and ID Theft Resources