Red Flags: Watch for These Signs of Identity Theft

Red Flags: Watch for These Signs of Identity Theft

Regardless of how they do it—digging through a Dumpster, diverting statements to a different address or creating elaborate phishing scams with commercial-grade websites—identity thieves are constantly at work. They create havoc for consumers and businesses by stealing personally identifying information to open new accounts and misuse existing ones.

Approximately 15 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, with financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion. Sometimes months or even years pass before a consumer is aware a thief has destroyed his or her credit.

To help protect consumers, banks and other lenders are required to have a formal policy for identifying and responding to identity theft “red flags.” The Federal Trade Commission instituted the Red Flags Rule as part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

Examples of red flags include inconsistent or unusual activity in a credit report, Social Security number verifications that don’t match up and requests for a new credit or debit card less than 30 days after an address change.

We’re watching for red flags, but there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Shred unwanted account opening documents,financial records and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your SS number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary, or ask to use another identifier.
  • Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you are sure you know the person making the request. Better yet, initiate the contact through a known source (phone book, calling your financial advisor directly, etc.) to verify you are talking to the right person.
  • Open all statements and notices promptly and report any discrepancies immediately. Use online banking often and consider getting statements online instead of through the mail. Drop bill payments in secured U.S. Postal boxes or directly at your post office. Stop mail service temporarily or forward as needed when away from home at
  • Never click on attachments or links sent in unsolicited emails. Remember that Pinnacle will NEVER ask for your online ID and password or account information via email.
  • Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, birth city or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Use numbers and special characters to mix it up. Using the first letters and digits of a pass phrase makes it memorable. For example, “I like three scoops of ice cream before bed” turns into the password “il3soicb4b.”
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.

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