Protect Your Credit and Identity
Identity theft is the #1 complaint to the Federal Trade Commission
The best defense against fraud is you. Learn more about fraud and arm yourself with the knowledge to stay safe online. Bank of the West is pleased to provide you with information from industry leaders and links to valuable resources to help you understand the risks and how to protect yourself.
Fraud and identity theft can be very disruptive. If we identify potential fraudulent activity, our Fraud team will contact you to resolve the issue.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains your personal information (i.e. Social Security Number, bank account number, address, etc.) and uses it to open new credit cards or bank accounts, make unauthorized purchases, conduct unauthorized activity, change account contact information or to conduct other criminal activity.
Such activity can cause financial loss and damage to your credit, which can lead to a lengthy resolution process.
How does it happen?
Criminals continue to find new ways to steal and obtain your personal information with online and offline methods, such as:
- Steal wallets, purses, and mobile phones
- Access and intercept mail via U.S. Postal Service
- Access and intercept emails
- Rummage through garbage
- Make phone calls to scam you out of your personal information by impersonating financial institutions, the IRS, law enforcement, prize administrators, etc. For more information visit Scams
- Phishing/SmiShing/Vishing, sending you a fake email, text (SMS) or phone call, asking you to provide or enter your personal information. For more information visit Phishing/SmiShing/Vishing
Identity thieves can strike even if you've been very careful with your personal information. The following may be signs of identity theft and fraudulent activity in your name or on your accounts:
- New accounts appear on your credit report that you didn’t open
- You did not receive an expected bill or statement
- You receive credit cards or billing statements you didn't apply for
- You are denied credit or are offered less than favorable credit terms
- You receive calls from creditors or debt collectors regarding merchandise or services that you did not buy
- You receive security alerts from your financial institution or from a creditor alerting you to unusual log in, change of contact information, or seeking verification of a transaction
- Unknown or unauthorized charges occur on your account
This could be your first indicator of fraud. Verify your contact information is up to date and sign up for alerts from your institutions.
- Account activity via online services – often
- Bank Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Social Security Statements
- Investment Statements
- Credit Bureaus
- Just browsing to a malicious website could infect your device with malicious software; make sure the website is secure. Look for "secure transaction" symbols such as the lock symbol (see the lower right-hand corner of your web browser window or on the toolbar), or "https://…" in the address bar of the website. The "s" indicates "secured" and means the web page uses encryption.
- Don't open attachments, click on links, or respond to emails from suspicious or unknown senders.
- Criminals may send you attachments or links that will lead you to spoofed sites or cause you to inadvertently download malicious software to your computer. Do not respond to any communication asking for confirmation of personal information. Personal information includes but is not limited to name, address, phone number, email address, Social Security Number, and/or financial information such as account numbers, etc.
- Do not respond to unexpected text messages or automated voice messages.
- Look for spelling and grammatical errors as these are often an indication of fraudulent emails or websites.
- Report any suspicious email purporting to be from Bank of the West by forwarding it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do not include account or sensitive information in emails. If you use Online Banking, send a secure message through the Message Center function of your Online Banking service.
- Use Online Banking tools and services:
- Utilize the services Online Banking offers, such as email alert notifications. Being alerted to changes in profile and activity can help you quickly identify unauthorized access to your accounts. Visit our Online Banking page for a full list of services and tools.
- Check for unauthorized changes and new accounts in your name. Consumers can obtain free copies of their credit reports once each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Be sure to review the credit report of your minor children. See the Federal Trade Commission's website http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/freereports/index.shtml for more information.
Information that you share on social networking websites, such as photos, location "check-ins," and other personal details about your life, may be sought by fraudsters in their attempts to commit financial fraud or identity theft. In addition, anything posted online may remain out there permanently, which is why it is important to be cautious of what you post. Consider the below tips when sharing your personal information online.
- Do not settle for the default settings. Limit information sharing to a small group, or only those closest to you.
- Validate your friends. Be wary of people that you meet online that you have not met in person, including job offers and financial transactions.
- Think before you post. Recent news of data breaches teaches us that anything that we post online, even items meant to be private, may become public. Before you say or upload something, think about the impact if it became public. What information is contained in the picture? What does the post say about you?
- Guard your location. Do not tell criminals when you are not at home. Your location information could be used for cyber stalking or to take your valuables when you are not at home. Keep in mind, status updates and photos taken with smartphones may contain embedded GPS coordinates that allow fraudsters to know where you are or have been. If you want to post photos of your vacation, consider waiting until you are back at home.
- Do not overshare. Social media sites may ask for your personal information (address, phone number, SSN, date of birth, etc.) which can be used by identity thieves to gain access to your bank account.
- Parent-strong. Teach your children the risks associated with the internet and potential risks of sharing personal details online.
For your eligible accounts, consider switching to online billing statements (see ID Theft Prevention to learn about securing your online activity and Online Banking Security Measures for information on how we work to protect your online activity).
Only use secured mailboxes to deposit your outgoing mail, like those at the post office. If your home mailbox isn't secure, consider changing it to a locked box with a mail slot. Collect your mail right away, and if you don't receive some expected mail, such as billings, make a call to the company and ask when they mailed it and make sure no unauthorized change of address has been made. If you believe your information was stolen, report it immediately.
Before you use your debit card, take a look around. Is someone crowding you or hovering around you for no apparent reason, such as at an ATM? Learn more about ATM safety.
If you feel uncomfortable using your debit card in this situation, don't. Also, be sure to place your wallet in a safe space, such as an inner zipped pocket, especially when taking out your card in public.
Make it a point to know how any organization requesting your personal information protects it.
Safekeeping of customer information is a high priority at Bank of the West. We will continue to maintain the high standards necessary to help ensure that your information is kept private and secure.
View Internet scams for more information on avoiding email phishing attempts. Understand that a criminal may use the name of someone you trust to get your information, so you cannot rely on name alone to make a judgment. Know the policies of the various institutions you do business with so that if you are faced with this type of scheme, you are prepared to protect yourself.
Take a look at what kind of information about you is available on the internet. View your internet networking sites and profiles to ensure you're not inadvertently giving out information that can be used to steal your identity.
Make sure that your computer has a firewall installed. Firewalls are designed to block unsolicited attempts to access your system. If you do have a firewall, make sure that it is turned on. If you don't a have a firewall installed, you can purchase one.
Make sure that you have antivirus software installed and update it regularly. Run antivirus software regularly to identify and remove viruses from your computer.
Do not open any attachments or go to any links from a source that you don't know. Delete any unsolicited emails with attachments and links immediately. You can report any suspicious Bank of the West communications to us at email@example.com.
Skimmers are devices used to read the magnetic strip from your credit or debit card. They can be used on any ATM or card reading device, like those found at gas stations or restaurants. The devices are often well-hidden.
It's important that you regularly check your account balances and reconcile them with any purchases you've made. Be wary of any ATM device that appears to have been altered or appears suspicious. Always cancel a transaction if you feel uncomfortable.
Organizations and financial institutions typically don't have a reason to unexpectedly call to ask for you to verify your personal information.
If you feel that it may be a legitimate call from a company you know, tell them that you'll call back through the number listed for their company. Use a phone or internet listing for the company to call back. Ask for the caller's name so that you can get back to them. If it is a legitimate call, the caller should have no problem accommodating you. If it's an organization you don't know, make sure this organization is valid before giving them any information about yourself. When in doubt, don't provide any information.
- We'll help you and take action, which may include placing holds and flags on your Bank of the West accounts, closing compromised account(s) and disabling online/mobile banking access
- Review all recent transactions and electronic authorizations on your account. If suspicious active transactions are found, cancel them immediately
- Identify gaps in your internal controls and address them immediately
Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
If you suspect identity theft, call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 to speak with an identity theft counselor. Or visit, www.ftc.gov.
File a police report
Contact your local law enforcement agency to file a report involving identity theft. Give a copy of the FTC theft complaint to law enforcement when you file a report. Contact your state's Attorney General's office to see if an Identity Theft police report is required.
Contact the credit reporting agencies
If you suspect identity theft, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately and have a Fraud Alert placed on your profile. This 90-day alert provides extra security should anyone try to open an account using your identity.
If you suspect a fraudulent account has been opened using your identity, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately and have a Fraud Alert placed on your profile. Once the dispute has been resolved, the credit reporting agencies will send you another copy of your credit report. Review it to make sure that all fraudulent activity has stopped and your file has been corrected.
For more information, contact:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com
Contact the company
If you suspect unauthorized charges, contact the company where the charges were made. The procedures for handling unauthorized charges will vary by company. Discuss your options with them, so that you can make an informed decision. Ask the company to send you an official notification of fraud account activity and discharge of the unauthorized transactions/debt in writing. Keep this for your records.
If you suspect fraudulent accounts have been opened using your identity, contact the companies where the accounts were opened. Your credit report profile will have the names of the companies. You will want to have the accounts closed and ensure that they have alerted the appropriate departments, such as their fraud prevention department. The procedures for handling fraud activity will vary by company. If you'e mailing documents to the companies, be sure to keep the originals and send copies. Send your documents by certified mail with return receipt requested.
Ongoing review all your accounts
Continue to review all charges and transactions appearing on your account statements and online account activity. Immediately report any discrepancies to the financial institution.
Check these resources for more information:
Because internet scams are so varied, resolving cases is often a lengthy process. In many cases, there is no satisfaction for the victim and recouping losses can be difficult. Follow these steps to protect yourself.
Review your accounts
If any fraud activity occurs, follow the Identity Theft resolution instructions.
Contact credit reporting agencies
Check your credit report for unauthorized new accounts. If a fraudulent account is opened, follow the Identity Theft resolution instructions and put a fraud alert on your credit profile.
Contact your financial institutions
Contact them to open new accounts, change your PIN, and/or have your credit/debit cards canceled and reissued.
Contact the company
Contact the website hosting the fraudulent seller, and let them know. They may have policies in place to help you recover your money.
For more information on business identity theft:
Visit the FBI’s cyber investigations website www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber for details on how to protect yourself.
- If your account has experienced suspicious activity or fraud, contact Bank of the West immediately. You'll need to get new account numbers and select a new PIN.
- Fraudulent activity on Bank of the West account(s) or lost/stolen: checks and debit ATM cards 1-800-488-2265. TTY 1-800-659-5495. Lost/stolen credit cards or suspicious credit card transactions 1-800-996-2638
- Fraudulent Bank of the West emails (Phishing) and websites (spoofed sites) .
- Important numbers to report Identity Theft and or obtain a copy of your credit report:
Theft hotline: 1-877- IDTHEFT or www.ftc.gov
Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 or www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888- 397-3742 or www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com
- View Don't be an online victim from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
- Federal Trade Commission
- Be wary of "phishing" emails that appear to be from a valid company or financial institution requesting confidential information. Legitimate companies like Bank of the West will never send unsolicited emails asking for confidential information. Do not reply to these emails or click on links embedded within them.
Do not respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. Contact your financial institution at a trusted number to verify requests.
- Review your bank and credit card statements carefully and report any unauthorized charges immediately. Monitor your account online at least once a week or more frequently, and review your account details and transaction history for suspicious activity.
- Before using an ATM, be aware of people and your surroundings. If you observe suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the ATM at that time. Guard your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Shield the ATM keypad with your hand or body while entering your PIN. After completing a withdrawal, secure your card and cash immediately before exiting the ATM area. Count your cash later in the safety of your locked car or home.
- Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately.
- Keep your operating systems, web browsers, and other applications on all personal devices (computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc.) updated with the latest security patches: Most internet service providers offer an automatic update feature to help you stay up to date; ensure this feature is turned on.
- Protect your personal and online account information:
- Never share your user names or passwords with anyone.
- Avoid login features that save usernames and passwords.
- Avoid passwords or PINs that are easy to discover like your mother's maiden name or your birthdate. Regularly change your passwords.
- Never leave your device unattended while handling bank-related business.
- Never access banking information or financial services at public internet locations.
- Clear browsing history and cookies stored on your hard drive.
- Beware of scams, no matter how urgent someone claims a deal, job offer or plea for assistance, you should research and confirm its legitimacy before responding.
- If your computer is infected with a virus, use a separate secure device to change passwords on all your financial, personal and email accounts.
- Purchase or subscribe to an antivirus service to help keep your computer virus free. Make sure your software is updated regularly and always running to stay protected. Beware of scams involving pop-ups or phone calls from software companies claiming to provide security support by downloading software. These are attempts to download spyware onto personal devices; confirm legitimacy before responding.
- Review your account details and transaction history at least once a week (or more) in an effort to promptly identify unauthorized or suspicious activity. Notify your financial institution immediately if you identify any unauthorized or suspicious activity.
Contact us to report
Fraud or suspicious activity
Lost or stolen credit cards
Suspicious Bank of the West emails