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Welcome To The Insighter!

Explore the latest happenings at Kirtland FCU and learn about important topics from around the financial world. Here’s your insight!

A Thief’s Shopping List: 10 Must-Haves

09/26/2019
Ashleigh, K-Staff

It’s errand day! Get some Social Security numbers, pick up the birth dates, and open the fraudulent accounts—it’s a busy day for a thief.

You’ve seen warnings to “protect your identity”. But what information is most dangerous in the hands of a thief. What are they looking for that you may not be thinking of?
  1. Your Social Security Number When the Social Security Administration began assigning to employees via post office “typing centers” in November of 1936, it would have been hard to visualize how integral that identifier would become in everyday life the following century. More than just a way to claim Social Security benefits, our Social Security number has been adopted as the primary piece of identifying information used to transact business with the government, with your employer, with your financial institutions, and more. And it’s GOLD for a thief, opening doors to other pieces of information that would make it easy for a thief to impersonate you while opening accounts and incurring debt under your number and your name.
  2. Your Birthplace and Birth Date Do you post your birth date on your social media pages? While it’s an easy way to keep friends in the loop, your birth date is often used as another personal identifier on government documents and with financial institutions. And coupled with other activity on social media such as joining a group for your high school class, a thief wouldn't have a hard time figuring out the month, day, and year of your birth. And having your birthday float around the internet, especially attached to your real name, can be dangerous should a thief come across the information. The same is true for your place of birth, a piece of information that’s often used as a secret question for online account access.
  3. Your Financial Account Numbers Your bank account numbers, your credit and debit card numbers, even account numbers for your healthcare are prime items for identity thieves. Your financial account numbers provide direct-line access to your money and your credit. Combined with other info like your PIN, full name, birth date, and Social Security number, an identity thief hits the jackpot with this information.
  4. Your Banking PINs Coupled with the account numbers we just talked about, your PIN is the key that unlocks the treasure for an identity thief. PINs can be swiped with equipment like cameras at an entry pad (like a gas station) or even just guessed. Despite warnings, many people continue to choose 1234 and other easy-to-guess combinations as PINs. And if a longer PIN is available, use the longer form. Longer is more secure.
  5. Your Card Expiration Dates and Security Codes If you’ve ever used your card online or over the phone, these are the two pieces of information that are required to process transactions in addition to the card number. You can prevent a thief from using your card online, even with the account number, by keeping this information out of a thief’s hands. Beware any phone call or e-mail that is asking you for this information—it isn’t harmless!
  6. Your Address (Home and E-mail) Phishing attacks  work because the thief dangles easy-to-look-up information about you, making their request for more information or money seem to legitimate. And your e-mail address is 50% of MANY online logins if you’re like many others. It may be impossible to keep this information entirely secret but avoid inserting it social media posts. No sense making it EASY for the thief, right?
  7. Your Driver’s License Number Frequently asked for on government documents, your driver’s license number can make it much easier for a thief to go to the motor vehicles department and get a copy of your ID printed (in combination with other pieces of information or forged documents). With a printed form of government-issued ID, a thief can wreak havoc on your credit and your life. It’s easier to mine other pieces of information and open fraudulent accounts in your name. This number should be treated with almost as much care as your Social Security Number. This also goes for passports, taking the theft international.
  8. Your Phone Number Another piece of information that can be almost impossible to keep private. But be aware that in a thief’s hands, your phone number is a line to you. In combination with a name, a simple phone call to you to gather more information or coerce you into sending money is all it would take for a big payday. Some phishing calls are sent to random number: the thief doesn’t know anything about you. But with a name and a number? The attack can be a lot more personalized and harder to detect.
  9. Your Full Name You may not think this is valuable information, but it sure makes opening fraudulent accounts easier! And since many online merchants ask for your name as it appears on your card to complete credit card transactions, it’s easier to guess how it appears with a full name.
  10. Your Affiliations, Members, and Employer Remember how little pieces of valid information can be used by a thief to turn a phishing call into a target spear phishing attack? These pieces of information are perfect for that use. For example, if a thief knows you work for ABC Corporation, he can do a little research to come up with a logo. Spoof an e-mail address from that company that looks legitimate with the ill-begotten logo, and he can send e-mails to you or that appear to be FROM you to others.
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Some of this information is really hard to keep secret; some is completely in your control. Here are a few tips to stay aware and safe.
  • Do not carry your Social Security card with you. This is not wallet material. Leave it at home in a secure place with other important documents.
  • Don’t write this information down. Leaving your Social Security number or other important information laying around, even without other identifying info, isn’t a great idea.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re asked for your Social Security number or other information to complete a transaction that you initiated, make sure there isn’t anyone around to eavesdrop. And if you are asked for that information during a phone call that you did not initiate, do not reveal it.
  • Don’t have your place of birth as a secret question if that information is available publicly.
  • Don't write any of this information down.
  • Keep track of scams. Many types of scams try to trick you into sending your financial information to a scammer, including dating site scams and IRS scams. Read about the most common types of scams to watch out for. 
  • Don’t write it down. It can be tempting to write down your bank card numbers to use online or lend your card to a family member to run an errand. But once your number is out of your hands, you have no control over who sees it.
  • Don’t post seemingly innocuous information online. Social media is a well-stocked pond of information for a thief. Using your full name, real birth date, posting photos with your address in them, or posting an e-mail address in a public area of the web are bad ideas.
  • Set hard-to-guess PINs and passwords. 1234 and 2580 and 4444 are all equally bad PINs. Make your PIN harder to guess with non-repeating and non-sequential digits. And ‘password’ is a bad password.

The key to staying safe is keeping as much information private as possible. And, if it’s not possible, be aware that others can gain that information and use it against you. Double check suspicious e-mails and unsolicited phone calls before revealing additional information or responding to requests.
 
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