Identity Theft Information

I have a computer and use the Internet. What should I be concerned about?

You may store your Social Security number, financial records, tax returns, birth date, and bank account numbers on your computer. Following are tips that can help you keep your computer and the personal information it stores safe.

Regularly update virus protection software, patches for your operating system, and other software programs. These help protect against intrusions and infections that can lead to your computer files or passwords being compromised.

Do not open files sent to you by strangers, or click on hyperlinks or download programs from people you don't know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program known as "spyware." These programs, also known as "Trojans" or "keyloggers," are designed to capture your logins, passwords, or other personal data as you log in to authorized websites.

Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or T-1 that leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. The firewall program will allow you to stop uninvited access to your computer. Without it, hackers can take over your computer, access the personal information stored on it, or use it to commit other crimes.

Do not store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do, use a strong password with a combination of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers, and symbols. Don't use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you're finished. This will make it more difficult for a thief to access your personal information if your laptop is stolen.

Properly dispose of old computers and ensure that all sensitive information has been permanently removed from the hard drive. Reformatting the hard drive may not be sufficient to permanently remove the files. Use a specialized "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Look for website privacy policies. They should answer questions about maintaining accuracy, access, security, and control of personal information collected by the site, how the information will be used, and whether it will be provided to third parties. If you don't see a privacy policy or if you can't understand it, consider doing business elsewhere.

How long can the effects of Identity Theft last?

It's difficult to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger. It depends on many factors, including the type of theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related to correcting your credit report.

Victims of identity theft should monitor their credit reports and other financial records for several months after they discover the crime. Victims should review their credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft.

Don't delay in correcting your records and contacting all companies that opened fraudulent accounts. The longer you wait to correct the information, the longer it will take to resolve the problem.

How can I tell if I'm a victim of Identity Theft?

If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. To find out, order a copy of your credit report and review it carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

Some other signs of identity theft to watch for are:

  • failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
  • being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
  • getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.
How can I minimize my risk?

The best line of defense against fraud begins with you. Firstbank is serious about securing your information and we want to help you avoid falling victim to account fraud, electronic crimes or identity theft. The following list of tips is presented to help you protect yourself.

  • Beware of fraudulent emails or websites that appear to be from legitimate sites. Never click on unverified links in emails, in pop-up ads, or on other unknown sites. These emails and links may ask for personal information or redirect you to illegitimate sites that look legitimate.
  • Maintain and run updated antivirus, firewall, anti-spyware, and security software on your computer. Update definitions and scan your computer frequently.
  • Beware of using non-encrypted wireless connections with computers, phones, and portable devices to send sensitive information from public wireless locations or even from home wireless networks. Using scanning devices, individuals can intercept unencrypted signals and view or obtain your information.
  • When using a computer in public areas, beware of “shoulder surfers” who may be trying to intercept your passwords or information.
  • Use strong passwords with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Change passwords periodically and always change pre-assigned temporary passwords. Avoid using birth date, addresses, phone numbers or other personal information that is easily guessed.
  • Never use the “save ID and password” option in your browser at home, or on a laptop or public computer.
  • Properly dispose of old computers and ensure that all sensitive information is removed from the hard drive. Reformatting the hard drive may not be sufficient – use specialized software to erase information.
  • Do not email personal and financial information to non-secure sites.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with.
  • Beware of “impostors” who ask you to disclose confidential or private information by posing as a representative of a legitimate organization. Check an organization’s website by typing its URL in the address line, rather than copying and pasting it. Or call the customer service department of the organization, using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.
  • Be cautious when responding to promotions. Identity thieves may create fake promotional offers to get you to give them your personal information over the phone.
  • Destroy unnecessary financial documents or documents that contain personal information, such as old bank statements, receipts, invoices and unwanted pre-approved credit and other financial offers.
  • Order a copy of your credit report. An amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit reports, at your request, once every 12 months.

To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies, visit, call toll-free (877) 322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually; they provide free annual credit reports only through, (877) 322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Under federal law, you’re also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company that supplied the information about you. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; you’re on welfare; or your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for any other copies of your report.

To buy a copy of your report, contact:

Under state law, consumers in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont already have free access to their credit reports.

If you so request, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.

What is an active duty military alert?

If you are a member of the military and away from your usual duty station, you may place an active duty alert on your credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft while you are deployed. Active duty alerts are in effect on your report for one year. If your deployment lasts longer, you can place another alert on your credit report.

When you place an active duty alert, you'll be removed from the credit reporting companies' marketing lists for pre-screened credit card offers for two years unless you ask to go back on the list before then.

What should I do if my personal information has been lost or stolen?

If you’ve lost personal information or identification, or if it has been stolen from you, taking certain steps quickly can minimize the potential for identity theft.

Financial accounts: Close accounts, like credit cards and bank accounts, immediately. When you open new accounts, place passwords on them. Avoid using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.

Social Security number: Call the toll-free fraud number of any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies and place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports. An alert can help stop someone from opening new credit accounts in your name. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.

Driver’s license/other government issued identification: Contact the agency that issued the license or other identification document. Follow their procedures to cancel the document and to get a replacement. Ask the agency to flag your file so that no one else can get a license or any other identification document from them in your name.

Once you have taken these precautions, watch for signs that your information is being misused. If your information has been misused, file a report about the theft with the police, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, as well.

If another crime was committed – for example, if your purse or wallet was stolen or your house or car was broken into – report it to the police immediately.

When should I give out my Social Security number?

Your employer and financial institutions will need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you for your Social Security number to do a credit check if you are applying for a loan, renting an apartment, or signing up for utilities. Sometimes, however, they simply want your Social Security number for general record keeping. If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask:

  • Why do you need my Social Security number?
  • How will my Social Security number be used?
  • How do you protect my Social Security number from being stolen?
  • What will happen if I don't give you my Social Security number?

If you don't provide your Social Security number, some businesses may not provide you with the service or benefit you want. Getting satisfactory answers to these questions will help you decide whether you want to share your Social Security number with the business. The decision to share is yours.

Are companies allowed to print my entire credit card number on my receipt?

Effective December 5, 2006, companies must not print your credit or debit card expiration date or more than the last 5 digits of your card number on your electronic receipt. The law allows receipts that are handwritten or mechanically imprinted to show your entire number and expiration date.

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