Help Prevent Check Washing
Check washing is on the rise in Illinois, with over 17,000 cases reported from the start of the 2022 through October (Associated Press, 2022). Most checks are stolen in the mail, from personal and official blue USPS mailboxes (Struett, 2022). Thieves treat the stolen checks with household chemicals to erase their ink, then sell the washed check online or rewrite the check with a higher amount to themselves. The rise of check washing in Chicago is part of a larger organized crime: Mail thieves sell washed personal and business checks online for hundreds of dollars, sometimes along with the personal information of their victims. The funds from selling stolen checks and identities then are often used to fund gangs and criminal activity.
Learn more about check washing and how you can help prevent it with our FAQ.
Resources for Cybersecurity Awareness
To spread awareness for Cybersecurity Awareness, we put together a few resources for our customers.
- Anti-Phishing Campaign: The American Bankers Association launched a national campaign to educate people about phishing with #BanksNeverAskThat. The campaign offers tips to avoid phishing attacks by email, phone, text, and payment apps. If you receive a piece of communication that insists a matter is urgent, requests your pin, asks for personal information, sends links, or misspells words, you may be a target of a phishing scheme. When in doubt, call your bank or the number on the back of your debit card.
- Identity Theft Prevention: Community published its own guide on identity theft prevention for customers. Some of the prevention measures include links to sign up for credit monitoring reports, setting banking alerts, stopping unsolicited telephone calls, and turning off cookies on browsers. Remember, just as a bank verifies you, you should also verify the identity of any party reaching out to you.
- Minor Credit Score Protection: In May of 2022, Chicago Public Schools released a statement that the private information of 500,000 students was breached. This is the most recent breach of minors’ personal information. Schemers use children’s data to create synthetic identities and apply for credit, leaving many children with wrecked credit scores when they turn 18. Protect your minor from identity theft by filing a freeze request with the credit agencies below:
Avoid phishing, smishing, vishing, and other SCAMS!
Criminals constantly try to steal individuals' personal data. They pretend to be with legitimate organizations that people know and trust. Perhaps a bank, retail store or even the IRS. Scammers threaten "you are a victim of fraud" to steal your personal data.
- Phishing- fake email which often displays a well known logo
- Smishing- official looking test message that seems legitimate
- Vishing- bogus live phone call, "robocall" or voicemail
- Lottery Scams- To claim your winnings, you must pay taxes and fees. A fake check is sent. You are asked to cash it. Then wire back payment. They steal your money. You are responsible for the bad check.
- Grandparent Scams- Scammer hacks someone's email account. Fake emails sent to relatives- claiming grandparent is stranded abroad> needs credit card information.
- Employment Scams- Fake ads claim to be hiring people to work at home. You are hired and receive a bonus check to start. You are asked to pay "account activation." Scammers hope to get your funds before their check bounces.
Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft
- Your financial institution will never call you to request information you received via text (SMS) or pressure you to reset your online banking log in password.
- Don't trust caller ID; Caller ID may be modified to show your financial institution's name.
- Don't provide your online banking log in credentials, one-time password, account number or personal information by email or text or phone call. Using their published phone number, reach out to your financial institution to confirm that the request is legitimate.
- Don't give information over the phone if you receive a call stating that a transaction is canceled, even if the caller claims to be from your financial institution. Once again, contact your financial institution using a published phone number to inquire about the transaction.
- Don't click on links in unsolicited emails or texts.
- Don't give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Protect your Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers at all times. Also be careful with your PINs and passwords.
- Never provide confidential information in response to a phone call, letter or an email no matter how friendly or official it appears. These scams are called "phishing."
- Don't throw away old ATM or credit card receipts, bank statements or tax returns without shredding them first. Thieves pick through trash bins looking for trash they can turn into cash.
- Guard your mailbox to protect confidential information sent to you. Pick up your mail as soon as you can. When mailing a check, put it in a postal service mailbox. Don't leave it for a postal carrier to pick up.
- Never provide financial information when visiting a website unless it clearly explains how your personal information is protected.
- Before disposing of an old computer, erase files that contain financial records, tax returns and other personal information.
Source: FDIC Consumer News
For more information on Identity Theft Prevention please view the video tutorial below.
If you suspect your information has been compromised, you can contact the major credit bureaus listed below and they can place a 1 year Temporary Fraud Alert (or Active Duty Fraud Alert) on your credit report for free. A 7 year Extended Fraud Alert can be placed on your credit report with a police report. You can also renew the alert for free.
Security Freeze or Credit Freeze
A Security Freeze (or Credit Freeze) can be added to any credit report with each credit reporting agency for free. The Security Freeze will prohibit any new third party relationship from accessing an individual's credit report without their consent (until the individual requests a temporary lift or its removal).