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Identity Theft Overview and Guidelines

Each year, millions of Americans have their identities stolen. As your financial partner, Bank of the James wants you to have the information you need to protect yourself against identity theft. While there are no guarantees that you can avoid identity theft, it’s important for you to know these key points:

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft involves the unlawful acquisition and use of someone’s identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, driver’s license or bank or credit card account number.

Thieves use the information to steal your identity, opening new accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards, and social security benefits, renting apartments and establishing services with utility and telephone companies in your name. It can have a negative effect on your credit and create serious financial problems for you.

How do they get my personal information?

  • Lost or Stolen Personal Items, including your checkbooks, credit cards, driver’s license or Social Security cards.
  • Stolen mail, including bank statements, credit card statements, credit card solicitations, new checks and tax information.
  • Thieves may also complete a change-of-address form to divert your mail to another location.
  • Onlookers may watch and/or listen to you conduct personal business such as entering your ATM or debit card PIN or when you’re on the phone.
  • Going through trash, either your trash, the trash of businesses or trash in public dumps.
  • The Internet, where personal pages can contain information like genealogical data with your mother’s maiden name that can be used to set up a credit card account or answer a security question to access existing accounts.
  • Phishing, which uses pop-ups or emails to deceive you into disclosing sensitive information such as bank account numbers and social security numbers. It often can appear as if it comes from a trusted source.
  • Posing as a legitimate company, calling on the phone and claiming that you have a problem with your account.
  • Skimming, stealing your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device, either by swiping your card for an actual purchase or attaching the device to an ATM machine you use.

How do I protect my identity?

  • Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately.
  • Shred all documents that contain personal information.
  • Don’t put your trash out until shortly before it will be picked up.
  • Pay bills online or mail using a U.S. Postal Service drop box.
  • Get your mail from your mailbox as soon as possible after it has been delivered. If you’re traveling, have the Postal Service hold your mail.
  • Don’t include your driver’s license number, social security number, or telephone number on your checks, and don’t carry around more cards than necessary.
  • Don’t give any of your personal information in person, over the telephone or over the Internet to anyone unless you have a very good reason to trust them.
  • Don’t give any of your personal information to any unsecured web sites.
  • Make sure your high-speed Internet connection has a firewall.
  • Use PINs and passwords that are difficult to guess. Do not use birth dates, names of spouses, children, pets or mothers’ maiden names. Regularly change your passwords.
  • Examine your credit card and financial institution statement immediately upon receipt to determine whether there were any unauthorized transactions. Immediately report any that you find.
  • If you are purchasing something online, make sure the site is secure by looking at the Web address. If the address begins with a “https” instead of a “http”, the site is secure.
  • Promptly inquire if bills or statements are not received in a timely fashion – this could mean that they are being diverted by an identity thief.
  • Review your credit report periodically to make sure it is accurate. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • If you are moving, contact your bank and creditors immediately to get your information

What do I do if I suspect I’m a victim of fraud or my identity has been stolen?

If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, follow these important steps:

  • Immediately notify the bank and your other financial institution(s). You will need to close out your account, reopen a new account and select a new PIN. If you are a victim of identity theft, we will offer assistance to help remedy the situation.
  • Report any suspicious activity immediately. Scrutinize the charges on your financial statements carefully to ensure that they are legitimate. If there is a questionable transaction or a fraudulent transaction, report it right away.
  • Call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report.
  • Contact your local police department and file a report.
  • Call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft hotline at (877) IDTHEFT to report it. The FTC maintains a program to assist victims of identity theft. The Center logs complaints and provides assistance and information to victimized consumers to rectify damage to their credit and personal reputation.
  • Notify the U.S. Postal Inspectors Office. Victims of fraud should contact their local post office to report any crime involving stolen mail or use of the mail in furtherance of a fraud scheme.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271. The Social Security Hotline allows a victim of identity theft to report misuse of a Social Security number. You may also visit your local Social Security Office to obtain further information.
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. If your driver’s license is stolen, report the theft immediately to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Ensure that a duplicate license was not recently issued in your name to an imposter.
  • Keep detailed notes of your repair efforts. Keep a log of all contacts and copies of all documents. Follow up your contact calls in writing.

Check these resources for more information on identity theft.

They also offer additional recommendations on what to do it you are a victim:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)


Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)


United States Department of Justice



P O Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30349-5069
To order a report: (800) 685-1111
To report fraud: (800) 525-6285


P O Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013-0949
To order a report: (888) 397-3742
To report fraud: (888) 397-3742

Trans Union

P O Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
To order a report: (800) 916-8800
To report fraud: (800) 680-7289