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Different fraud tactics all share the same goal: to obtain your personal, confidential and financial information for fraudulent use.

From obtaining your information 'the old fashioned way' via discarded mail, to newer electronic methods including emails that ask you to verify personal information under the guise of a trusted source ― like your financial institution ― fraudulent activity comes in many different forms.

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Fraud Tactics

Dumpster Diving

Thieves rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper that includes your personal information.



Also known as 'malicious software', malware is designed to harm, attack or take unauthorized control over a computer system. Malware includes viruses, worms and Trojans. It's important to know that Malware can include a combination of all three of the types noted.



A scam that involves the use of replicas of existing Web pages to try to deceive you into entering personal, financial or password data. Often suspects use urgency or scare tactics, such as threats to close accounts.



Vishing is a type of phishing attack where the attacker uses a local phone number in the fake email as a means of obtaining your sensitive information. The goal is to fool you into believing the email is legitimate by instructing you that responding to the request by phone is safer than responding by email and shows authenticity. The unsuspecting caller is then tricked through an automated phone system to relinquish their sensitive information.



Pharming takes place when you type in a valid Web address and you are illegally redirected to a Web site that is not legitimate. These 'fake' Web sites ask for personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.



A Trojan is malicious code that is disguised or hidden within another program that appears to be safe (as in the myth of the Trojan horse). When the program is executed, the Trojan allows attackers to gain unauthorized access to the computer in order to steal information and cause harm. Trojans commonly spread through email attachments and Internet downloads. A common Trojan component is a "keystroke logger" which captures a user's keystrokes in an attempt to capture the user's credentials. It will then send those credentials to the attacker.



Spoofing is when an attacker masquerades as someone else by providing false data. Phishing has become the most common form of Web page spoofing. Another form of spoofing is URL spoofing. This happens when an attacker exploits bugs in your Web browser to display incorrect URLs in your browser location bar. Another form of spoofing is called "man-in-the-middle". This occurs when an attacker compromises the communication between you and another party on the Internet. Many firewalls can be updated or configured to significantly prevent this type of attack.



Loaded on to your computer unbeknownst to you, spyware is a type of program that watches what users do and forwards information to someone else. It is most often installed when you download free software on the Internet. Unfortunately hackers discovered this to be an effective means of sending sensitive information over the Internet. Moreover, they discovered that many free applications that use spyware for marketing purposes could be found on your machine, and attackers often use this existing spyware for their malicious means.



A form of Web advertising that appears as a "pop-up" on a computer screen, pop-ups are intended to increase Web traffic or capture email addresses. However, sometimes pop-up ads are designed with malicious intent like when they appear as a request for personal information from a financial institution.



A computer virus is a malicious program that attaches itself to and infects other software applications and files without the user's knowledge, disrupting computer operations. Viruses can carry what is known as a "payload," executable scripts designed to damage, delete or steal information from a computer.


A virus is a self-replicating program, meaning it copies itself. Typically, a virus only infects a computer and begins replicating when the user executes the program or opens an "infected" file.


Viruses spread from computer to computer only when users unknowingly share "infected" files. For example, viruses are commonly spread when users send emails with infected documents attached.



This virus specifically targets your computer defenses. It will look for vulnerabilities within your computer operating system or any third party security software. Most security vendors have some form of tamper-proof measure in place, so it is important to keep your patches up-to-date. Retro Viruses are usually combined with another form of attack.



A worm is similar to a virus but with an added, dangerous element. Like a virus, a worm can make copies of itself; however, a worm does not need to attach itself to other programs and it does not require a person to send it along to other computers.

Worms are powerful malware programs because they cannot only copy themselves, they can also execute and spread themselves rapidly across a network without any help.


ATM Card Skimming

ATM Card Skimming is a method used by criminals to capture card data from the magnetic stripe on the back of your ATM/Check Card or Credit Card. Instances of skimming have been reported where the perpetrator has put a device over the card reader slot of an ATM or gas station pump, which reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly passes their card through it. More common scenarios for skimming are at restaurants or bars where the skimmer has possession of the victim's card out of their immediate view to obtain the magnetic stripe information.


PIN Capturing

PIN Capturing happens when criminals attach small cameras and other imaging devices to ATMs to fraudulently capture your PIN number as you use the keypad. Once the perpetrator has both the magnetic stripe information and the PIN, a fraudulent card is made and used to withdraw money from accounts.

Fraud Prevention

It's not always easy to identify online fraud. Understanding how fraudulent activity takes place helps with prevention, and helps keep you safe.



Safeguard your email

Email is often a vehicle used to transmit malware and commit fraud. It is important to evaluate your email behaviors and develop good habits to help protect your computer and your identity.

In addition to viruses and worms that can be transmitted via email, phishing also threatens email users. A type of email fraud, phishing occurs when a perpetrator, posing as a legitimate, trustworthy business, attempts to acquire sensitive information like passwords or financial information.



To safeguard your email:


Never open or respond to SPAM (unsolicited bulk email messages).

Delete all spam without opening it. Responding to spam only confirms your email address to the spammer, which can actually intensify the problem.


Never click on links within an email.

It's safer to retype the web address than to click on it from within the body of the email.


Don't open attachments from strangers.

If you do not know the sender or are not expecting the attachment, delete it.


Don't open attachments with odd filename extensions.

Most computer files use filename extensions such as ".doc" for documents or ".jpg" for images. If a file has a double extension, like "heythere.doc.pif," it is highly likely that this is a dangerous file and should never be opened. In addition, do not open email attachments that have file endings of .exe, .pif, or .vbs. These are filename extensions for executable files and could be dangerous if opened.


Never give out your email address or other sensitive or personal information to unknown web sites.

If you don't know the reputation of a web site, don't assume you can trust it. Many web sites sell email addresses or may be careless with your personal information. Be wary of providing any information that can be used by others for fraudulent purposes.


Never provide sensitive information in email.

Forged email purporting to be from your financial institution or favorite online store is a popular trick used by criminals to extract personal information for fraud.


Don't believe the hype.

Many fraudulent emails send out urgent messages that claim your account will be closed if sensitive information isn't immediately provided, or that important security needs to be updated online. Your financial institution will never use this method to alert you of an account problem.


Be aware of poor design, and/or bad grammar and spelling.

A tell-tale sign of a fraudulent email or web site includes typos and grammar errors as well as unprofessional design layout and quality. Delete them immediately.


Backup your sensitive data records.

Consider backing up all sensitive files. This will not only help you restore damaged or corrupted data, but it will help protect against fraud attacks and help recover lost files if needed.



Safeguard your identity online

In addition to protecting your email, there are a number of guidelines to follow that will help safeguard your identity online.


Do not allow a web site to keep sensitive information or credentials for future convenience.

It is a common practice when registering for access to a web site or making a purchase from a web site to be asked if you want to keep your access credentials, credit card number or other sensitive information on file as a matter of convenience. This common request is referred to as "remembering" for future use.


Be selective about where you surf.

Not all web sites are benign. Sites that are engaged in illegal or questionable activities often host damaging software and make users susceptible to aggressive computer attacks.


Don't choose "Remember My Password."

You should never use the "remember password" feature for online banking or transactional web sites.


Don't use public computers for sensitive operations.

Since you cannot validate the computer's integrity, there's a higher risk of fraud when you log in from a public computer.


Work on a computer you trust.

Firewalls, antivirus, anti-spyware and other protection devices help keep a computer properly monitored and provide peace of mind. These tools are important in order to protect your computer and data. A good firewall is critical if you commonly access the Internet via a wireless connection. It is also important to keep your computer up-to-date with patches to security tools as well as to the operating system and other programs on your computer. Make sure to configure your computer to update all security fixes.


Select a strong password.

The best password is an undetectable one. Never use birth dates, first names, pet names, addresses, phone numbers, or Social Security numbers. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Be sure to change your passwords regularly.


Use a secure browser.

Only use secure web pages when you're conducting transactions online (a web page is secure if there is a locked padlock in the lower left-hand corner of your browser).


Sign off, shut down, disconnect.

Always sign off or logout from your online banking session or any other web site that you've logged into using a user ID and password. When a computer is not in use, it should be shut down or disconnected from the Internet.


Lock you computer when it is not in use.

This helps protect you from unauthorized user access.


Beware of shoulder surfing.

This is a common tactic that happens in public places such as coffee shops, airports, libraries etc. where an attacker will look over your shoulder when you're logged in to obtain your sensitive information. Be vigilant and aware of prying eyes.


Set up a timeout.

The Timeout feature is an additional safety check. It can prevent others from continuing your online banking session if you left your PC unattended without logging out. You can set the Timeout period in the User Options screen.



Safeguard your cards

Protect your credit, debit and ATM cards and your Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) by following these simple guidelines:



General Tips

  • Keep your PIN a secret and do not disclose it to others.
  • Don’t write your PIN down and store it in the same place as you store your card (e.g., in your wallet or purse).
  • Check the activity in the account linked to your card for unauthorized transactions regularly.
  • Report unusual account activity to the card issuer immediately.



Phone Fraud

  • Be leery if you receive a call claiming to be from your card issuer asking you to divulge your card information (e.g., card number, expiration date, security code, and/or PIN), which it should already know.
  • You can verify the authenticity of such a call by hanging up the phone and calling your card issuer using the phone number on the back of the card (and never the phone number given to you by the caller).
  • If you believe that you may have been targeted by a phone fraudster, please report the call to your card issuer’s security or fraud team so they can investigate.



ATMs, Gas Pumps, and Point of Sale Terminals

  • Familiarize yourself with the appearance of the ATMs, gas pumps, and point of sale terminals you normally utilize and look for signs of tampering (e.g., loose components) before use.
  • To defeat PIN hole cameras, cover the key pad with your other hand when entering your PIN.
  • Report anything out of the ordinary with an ATM, gas pump, or point of sale terminal to its owner so that it will be investigated.
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Report Fraud

If you know, or even think, you've been a victim of identity theft, take immediate action and follow these five steps.

More specifics can be found on the FTC's Identity Theft Site, located here:


  1. Report the fraudulent activity

    If the activity is related to our financial institution, please contact us directly at 1-855-696-4352. If it is related to another financial institution, your credit card company, or any other organization, contact them directly.

    If you believe you have received a phishing email, please call 1-855-696-4352.

  2. Contact one of the three consumer reporting companies

    Contact one of the three consumer reporting companies and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. This will help stop fraudsters from opening any additional accounts in your name. Contact only one of the following (each is required to contact the other two):

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

    Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

  3. Close accounts

    Close any accounts that you know - or even think – might have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Report the transgression to a security spokesperson at the relevant company. Ask them about any additional steps – they'll probably ask you to send relevant copies of the fraudulent activity.

    You can also use the FTC Theft Affadavit ID Theft Affidavit(PDF, 56KB) as formal certification of your dispute.

  4. File your complaint

    File your complaint with the FTC. Use the online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC will help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them.

  5. Call or visit

    Call or visit the local police or police in the community where the identity theft took place and file a report. Have a copy of your FTC ID Theft complaint form available to give them. Obtain a copy of the police report and the police report number.