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identity theft prevention


Identity theft and fraud can affect anyone.  The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didnít makeóor until youíre contacted by a debt collector. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. However, there are some simple precautions you can take to help prevent thieves from acquiring your personal and financial information. 

dfd What do identity thieves do with a stolen identity and how does that impact me?
dfd How do identity thieves steal an identity?
dfd How would I know if I'm a victim?
dfd How to spot a Phishing (fraudulent) email claiming to be from Citywide Banks?

What do identity thieves do with a stolen identity, and how does that impact me?

Identity theft and fraud can affect anyone. Thieves may attempt to acquire personal and financial information through a variety of methods, including stealing mail, looking through trash, and pick-pocketing. Armed with this valuable information, the thieves can re-create a driver's license with the name and social security number of their victim but use the thieves' photos.  The thieves can then pose as the victim to lenders and corporations applying for loans, credit cards, leases, cell phones, utilities and countless other services.  The imposter can quickly accumulate large debt under the victim's name. Often, it's months before a victim realizes the theft.

Victims of identity theft are usually not responsible for the financial losses.  However, the responsibility of identifying and resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to the victims.  It is very important to act quickly to minimize the damage to credit and personal reputation.  While identity theft is a crime that can be prosecuted, the perpetrator is often difficult to find.  The havoc created for the identity theft victim cannot be cleaned up by law enforcement.  This is left for the victim to clean up and can take months to resolve. (click here to learn how to report and resolve ID theft or fraud incidents)

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How do identity thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

  1. Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  2. Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  3. Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. If you are ever suspicious of a phone call, letter, or email, contact (or visit) the financial institution directly using a recognized phone number and inquire about the request for your personal information.
  4. Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  5. Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
  6. Pretexting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources. 

  7. [Source: Federal Trade Commission website on Identity Theft]

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How would I know if I'm a victim?

The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.

Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done.

  • You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred.
  • You may find out when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
  • You may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.

  • [Source: Federal Trade Commission website on Identity Theft]

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How to spot a Phishing (fraudulent) email claiming to be from Citywide Banks?

Phishing email messages (or phone calls and text messages) are designed by criminals to steal money. Cybercriminals can do this by installing malicious software on your computer or by pretending they are your financial institution. Their goal is to convince you to reply to an email, go to a website form, or download something off a website.

DON'T BE FOOLED. Criminals can easily steal and use our bank logo and look up our location address. Be suspicious of any email asking for personal information or directing you to go to an unknown website. Just contact your Citywide Banks branch or customer service to verify the validity of any information sent by email. Citywide Banks will NEVER ask for personal account information via email or text message.

DO NOT click on links or open attachments in a suspicious email. Contact Citywide Banks through phone or emails published on or stop by your nearest branch to report the email.


  • Sense of Urgency / Response Deadlines - The email will try to scare users that unless they take action immediately, their account will be suspended or their account will be charged a large fee
  • Mispelled Words or Bad Grammar - Fraudulent emails often contain bad grammar and mispelled words
  • Email contains link to an unknown website
  • Email asks for confidential name or account information

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dfd Online banking security measures
dfd Offline security practices
dfd Privacy policies

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Protect your account numbers, online log-in IDs and passwords
  • Keep your log-in credentials private. Only give your personal information, especially your social security number, bank account number, and financial account passwords, to companies and individuals you know and trust. Take extra precaution to verify the identity of these companies.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home. Most unauthorized access and account fraud is committed by someone who has access to your computer and log-in information – a roommate, family member or employee.
  • Do not send confidential information such as your online banking password, social security number, bank account number, or credit card number via an unsecured email.
  • Memorize your PINs and do not write them down.  When using an ATM, take extra precaution to ensure nobody is observing your PIN input.
  • Always tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
  • Be suspicious of any request for personal information by phone, mail, or email. Take extra precaution to verify the identity of the company or individual. You always have the option to call back a company through a trusted phone number.

Elect to receive electronic statements (email) versus mailed statement for financial accounts
This diminishes the risk that your account information could be lost or stolen through the mail.

Change your online account log-in credentials often and on a varied schedule
  • Create an ID and password that are not easy to guess, such as including a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters.
  • Do not use your social security number as a username or password. Avoid using repetitive characters (i.e. 'aaa') or sequential numbers (i.e. '1,2,3,4') within your password.
  • Change them often and on a varied schedule to reduce unauthorized access by criminals who may already have your credentials.
  • For business users, immediately change business account PINs when key personnel in your organization change positions or leave the organization.

Limit your use of public wireless Internet access
Avoid using wi-fi to access your bank accounts or other critical information in a public area.

Minimize use of saving password information through browsers
Do not allow Windows to remember your password (this is an optional feature of the operating system)

Manage your temporary files  dfdView more Computer Security Tips
Regularly deleting cookies, web access history and the cache from your browser can reduce threats of unauthorized access that are sometimes embedded in website links.

Designate a separate computer for online banking at your office
Consider using a separate computer in your office exclusively for online banking. Ensure all impacted employees are aware that the online banking computer should not be used for any other online activity.

Monitor your bank account activity
Review your accounts frequently for unfamiliar activity.

Order and review your own credit report at least once a year.
Your credit report should list all bank and financial accounts in your name, and will identify if there are any unauthorized accounts opened in your name. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to receive your credit report annually for free. dfdClick here for contact information on these credit reporting companies

Additional Fraud Control Tools for Citywide Banks Business customers:
dfdMARBLE CLOUD Security
dfdACH Filters
dfdPositive Pay
dfdSecurity ID Token

 Downloadable Videos & Guides on Protecting Your Identity
ID Theft publication from FTC
Click to view brochure about countering phishing, pharming, and identity theft
 Government Alerts
(October 2008)
dfdFDIC Special Alert regarding fraudulent emails claiming to be from legitimate banks

dfd U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team's (US-CERT) cyber security website
dfd Federal Trade Commission identity theft website


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