Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. It can damage your finances, credit score, and reputation. Identity theft is when an individual uses your personal information to act on your behalf without your permission, in order to better themselves financially or pursue another gain. Another, newer identity theft problem called ‘synthetic identity theft is when your personal information is combined with fake data to create a new fake identity. Identity theft has affected over 60 million Americans, causing people to be unable to get employment, housing, and even causing permanent damage to their credit scores that will forever mark them negatively. However, there are some key tactics that you can implement in order to decrease your chances of being a victim of identity theft and help prevent it from happening in the first place.


Card information stealing techniques

The most important part of protecting yourself is staying aware of what is going on around you. Keep an eye out for card ‘skimmers,’ which are typically a piece of plastic placed on top of normal card readers that record your card’s information and thieves use to make a copy of your card. Thieves will also place tiny hidden cameras to see you punch in your debit card pin number. Make sure to cover your hand that’s punching in your pin to reduce the likelihood of them capturing that pin number. If any part of the machine looks off, such as the card reader being loose, the keypad seeming thicker, or colors that are out of place, don’t use the machine! 


It’s also important to watch out for scams through the mail, phone, email, or over the internet. A great way to stay away from scams is to read the news and stay up-to-date on scams that are happening nationwide and question why a stranger would call you to get your payment information, your personal identification information, or any other sensitive information– if you’re not sure of their identity, don’t give them anything! Another good rule of thumb is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stay diligent and make sure you are only giving your information to those who can verify their identity and ask yourself why they are asking for your information. Ensuring that you are cyber-secure and staying on top of your how and where your cards are being used is another tactic that will help keep your identity safe.

What to do if you become a victim of identity theft

If you become a victim of identity theft, there are some steps you can take to ensure your information is safe. You should identify the accounts that have been hacked, to see what damage was done. Credit card companies and banks offer help services that can investigate fraudulent activity, often letting you know of suspicious activity, and identify ways to resolve the problem. Below you’ll find the tools that you should consider using if you have been affected.

Contact the Institution Directly Affected 

A good method to follow is to keep your personal identification and financial information kept out of sight, and, even better, under lock and key.  This includes important passwords, credit card numbers, pins, passports, driver’s licenses, social security information, etc. If something does go wrong, contact the institution directly and get any pertinent information that will help you resolve the issues as quickly as possible. For banks, specifically, get a list of accounts that have been affected, along with the institutions where the payment was made to begin a swift and effective investigation. The bank will be able to freeze accounts and make it so no payments will be able to go through, protecting you from further damages. It is best to contact the bank or establishment where the fraud occurred within two days of the transaction, so it’s best to stay diligent and check your accounts regularly. 

Contact Post Office

It is best to make sure you are retrieving your mail in a timely fashion. Thieves can gain access to your bank account numbers, credit card information, phone numbers, email addresses, and more through your mail. Be certain to place your mail on hold at the local post office if you plan on going out of town. If something does happen with your mail, alert the postal service that fraudulent activity has occurred and make sure they are aware of the events, which will help them to keep an eye out for the same perpetrators in the future. Along with contacting the post office, it is advised to contact the institutions where your credit card is held and check bank statements for any suspicious activity. 

Contact Federal Trade Commission

If you were affected by identity fraud, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After contacting the FTC, you will be instructed on how to create a unique plan in order to move further with the investigation. Through an online form, you input your contact information, the type of product or service involved, information of the company or seller, and details about the transaction, which the FTC will use to further investigate and look for patterns of fraudulent activity. 


At Bank of Bozeman, we work with our clients to ensure the highest level of security. We are available to discuss any concerns related to identity theft/fraud and help you protect your account at the highest level. We are independently owned and do everything we can to best serve our clients. Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about keeping your personally-identifiable information safe!