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Identity Theft Protection

Identify Theft is when someone steals personal information such as social security number or credit card number to commit fraud or theft.  Contrary to a growing belief, most thieves still obtain personal information through traditional rather than electronic channels.  In the cases where the method was known, 68.2% of information was obtained off-line versus only 11.6% obtained online.  Javelin/Better Business Bureau

Conventional methods such as through lost or stolen wallets, misappropriation by family and friends, and theft of paper are still among the most common ways thieves gain access to information.


(fish´ing) The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate business in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.

The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the real business already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and is set up only to steal the user’s information.  Because it is relatively simple to make a Web site look like a real one,  the scam counts on people being tricked into thinking they are actually being contacted by that business.

If you ever have concerns about your accounts, always call the business directly with a phone number you already have on file.  Never respond to e-mails verifying any personal information that you have already provided the business.


Generally, e-mails from foreign countries are scams.  Also, if you receive an e-mail notification that you are a lottery winner and you did not sign up for it or buy a ticket, then it is a scam.  Also, be wary of e-mails asking for your account information in order to wire you funds.  Usually, they will say you can keep 10% of the proceeds for helping them.


A skimmer is a device, now the size of a small pager that has a slit in it.  When a credit/debit card is swiped through it, it reads the cardholder's name, card number, expiration date and invisible encrypted verification code.  This information is stored within the skimmer, which is then downloaded onto a computer.

Waiters in restaurants or hotel clerks normally have been reported as performing skimming, although it can be done by anyone who has access to consumer's cards during the course of business.

Don’t let the waiter/clerk leave with your card.  Pay at the counter and keep your card in view at all times.

Another gimmick some have seen is a sign that reads, “Clean Your Card Here for free.”  Just swipe your card through this machine and it will clean it for you.  This is just a scam to get your card information.

Also, if you notice an unusual attachment on an ATM machine or anything unusual, then the machine may have been fitted with a skimming device.  Your transaction will complete as normal but your card will also have been swiped through this device.  It will most likely be the same color and look like it’s part of the machine.

Fraudulent Cashiers Checks/Money Orders

With the advances in printing technology, bogus cashier’s checks and money orders are numerous.

Another Scenario:  Someone pays you with a Cashier’s Check or Money Order but the payment is more than the agreed upon amount.  They call you and say just send me a check for the difference.  The Cashiers Check or Money Order is bogus and you find out a few days later when it is returned on your account.

For this reason, we’ve now had to place holds on cashier’s checks and money orders.  We have been able to save members financial woes by doing so.

When it comes to identity theft, you can’t entirely control whether you will become a victim.  But there are certain steps you can take to minimize your risk.  Though some things take a bit of effort, cleaning up the mess identity thieves leave behind is far more difficult and time-consuming.

Credit Reports

At least annually, order a copy of your credit report.

An amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the major 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 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 the information listed above.

Dispute inaccurate information immediately.

Personal Identity Information

Keep all identification and financial documents in a safe and private place.

Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home

Keep information with us (the Credit Union) current.  If your address or phone number changes, please let us know.  It is important that we have current information on how to reach you.  If we detect potentially fraudulent or unauthorized activity or use of an account, we will attempt to contact you immediately but we will NOT ask you for personal information. Change of address forms are available from the Accounts & Services section of this website.

As recommended by Javelin/Better Business Bureau, cancel your paper bills and statements wherever possible and instead check your statements and pay bills online.  Monitor your account balances and activity electronically (at least once per week).

You can do this by taking advantage of our free Teller@home and e-bill services.  We also offer e-statements through Teller@home free.  Even your check images are now available for you to review just by clicking on the check number under Drafts.  You can also set up e-bill to send you e-mail “alerts” when changes or transactions have been done.

Provide personal information only when:

  • You know how it will be used
  • You are certain it won’t be shared
  • You initiated contact and know who you’re dealing with

Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are absolutely sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves are clever, and have posed as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother's maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information. Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. Check an organization's website by typing its URL in the address line, rather than cutting and pasting it. Many companies post scam alerts when their name is used improperly. Or, call customer service using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.

Make all passwords hard to guess by using a complex combination of numbers and upper and lower case letters.

Place passwords on your credit card, credit union, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that many businesses still have a line on their applications for your mother's maiden name. Ask if you can use a password instead.

Request a vacation hold if you can’t pick up your mail

If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it.

Deposit your outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox.

Remove mail from your mailbox promptly.

Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work; do the same with copies of administrative forms that have your sensitive personal information.

Be aware of your workplace’s security procedures

Memorize your Social Security number rather than carrying your Social Security Card; leave it in a secure place.

Review your Social Security annual statement for accuracy

Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary and to those you absolutely trust, and ask to use other types of identifiers. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Security number as your policy number.

Before revealing your Social Security number, ask:

  • Why your number is needed
  • How your number will be used
  • What happens if you refuse

Be cautious when responding to promotions. Identity thieves may create phony promotional offers to get you to give them your personal information.

Treat your mail and trash carefully.

To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail. To opt out of receiving offers of credit in the mail, call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). The three nationwide consumer reporting companies use the same toll-free number to let consumers choose not to receive credit offers based on their lists. Note: You will be asked to provide your Social Security number which the consumer reporting companies need to match you with your file.

If you need immediate availability of funds, wire the funds to us and take advantage of IRS direct deposits.

Credit Card and ATM/Debit Cards

Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you'll actually need when you go out.

 Shred all statements and pre-approved credit card offers with a crosscut shredder

Photocopy the front and back of all your cards and store in safe place so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates, etc..  If you lose your debit or credit card, call immediately.  For Debit cards, call 800-264-5578.  For Credit cards, call 800-991-4964 and call the credit union 556-7819.

Reduce the number of pre-approved offers you receive by adding your name to the name-deletion lists of the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service.

Cancel unused credit card accounts

Be aware of people behind you at the ATM, or anywhere else you swipe your card

If you give your credit or debit card to someone for a transaction, watch them swipe it and inspect the receipt for accuracy

Know your billing cycles and contact creditors if bills don’t arrive on time

Examine the charges on your credit card statements every month

Checking Accounts

Do not have your Social Security or driver license number printed on your checks

Know where your checkbook is at all times

Print firmly and use indelible ink when writing checks

Check your account statement for fraudulent activity

Do not give out your checking account number unless you know the company requesting the information and understand why the information is necessary


Update virus protection software periodically, and after every new virus alert is announced

Do not download files or open hyperlinks sent from people you don’t know

Use a firewall program to prevent your computer from being accessible to hackers

Use a secure browser to guard the security of your online transactions

Enter personal and financial information only when there is a “lock” icon (œ) on the browser’s status bar and look for the URL to read “https” versus “http”

If you must store personal and financial information on your laptop:

  • Use a strong password – one that is a hard-to-guess combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers
  • Don’t use an automatic log-in feature
  • Always log off when you’re finished

Before disposing of a computer, delete personal information using a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Checks and Money Orders

We have been notified of an increasing number of fraudulent checks and money  orders in our community.  For your protection, it may now be necessary to place  a funds available holds on these items.  Tuscaloosa VA FCU is committed to  safeguarding your account to help protect you.  If you are in need of immediate  access to your money, contact the credit union for information on wire-transfer  instructions or other ways we may assist you.  Thank you for your patience and  cooperation.

Credit and Debit Cards

The credit union has received alerts concerning numerous fraudulent credit and  debit card transactions in our area from other countries.  Please review your  account and credit card statements closely for transactions you do not recognize  and report them immediately.  If you have not already done so sign up for Teller@home and to view your account history 24/7.