Practical Security Tips to Help You Stay Safe

SAWSecurityBasics

Learning the basics can help protect you from identity theft and fraud, in addition to implementing some practical security tips. First, it’s important to know the difference between these two concepts. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your permission. In comparison, bank or credit card fraud is when an account is opened fraudulently in your name and unauthorized charges are made.

So how does Merchants Bank protect you from both? We use a combination of safeguards to protect your information, which include employee training, encryption of information, and fraud detection programs. Learn more on our website.

It’s also your responsibility to take steps to protect yourself. Here are our top practical security tips for your home, office, money management habits and online practices.

At Home or Work:

  • Always lock your vehicle and, if kept in your vehicle, power down mobile devices so your GPS signal cannot be tracked.
  • Put private information away when others will be in your home or office.
  • Keep a list of your credit cards, account numbers, expiration dates and customer service or fraud department telephone numbers in a secure place away from the cards for easy access.
  • Shred all financial statements, credit card offers and any unused cards.
  • Never keep your Social Security card in your wallet.

When Managing Your Money:

  • Don’t keep large balances in checking accounts that have checks or a debit card connected to them. Transfer excess funds to a savings account instead.
  • If you are not going to use checks, do not order any.
  • Carefully check through your credit card and bank activity regularly and immediately report unusual activity.
  • Set up text or email alerts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPVP1FeaqSk) from your bank for certain transactions, such as transactions over $500.
  • Sign up for eStatements to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.

Online:

  • Do not provide your personal information to anyone (phone or online), unless you are the one who initiated the call and are familiar with the business.
  • Change your password frequently, using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters when possible. Do not share them with others.
  • Be cautious when entering a login ID and PIN online, especially on a public network. Make sure you are on a secure website.
  • Never have a website remember your password to log in.
  • Add virus protection software on your computer if you don’t already have it. Once it’s added, make sure the software on your computer is up-to-date, which can be easily managed by enrolling for automatic software updates.
  • Be careful what you post on social media websites and check your privacy settings. Criminals can use public information such as birthdays, high schools, colleges, pet names, and email addresses to steal your identity.

If you suspect fraudulent activity on your Merchants Bank account(s), contact your local Merchants Bank immediately.

To receive email fraud and scam alerts from Merchants Bank in your inbox, sign up here.

Tax Scammers Target Might Target You: Here’s What to Do

Tax Scam Awareness

It’s that time of year — tax time. It’s also a great time to get up to speed on tax-related scams. Here are two ways tax scammers might target you and what you can do about it:

Tax Identity Theft
This kind of identity theft happens when someone files a fake tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund. Tax identity theft also happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job. You find out about it when you get a letter from the IRS saying:

  • More than one tax return was filed in your name, or
  • IRS records show wages from an employer you don’t know

If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. You can find more about tax identity theft at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and irs.gov/identitytheft.

IRS Imposter Scams
This time scammers aren’t pretending to be you — they’re posing as the IRS. They call you up saying you owe taxes, and threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay right away. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and they can rig caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Washington, DC – when it could be coming from anywhere. Leaving you no time to think, they tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number right away.

The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by mail. You can report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Visit IdentityTheft.gov
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. You can report identity theft, get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These resources will help you fix problems caused by the identity theft.