Fraud and Security

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a serious crime. It can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation, and take time, money, and patience to resolve. Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.

Identity Thieves Might :

  •   Go through trash cans and dumpsters, stealing bills and documents that have sensitive information.
  •   Work for businesses, medical offices, or government agencies, and steal personal information on the job.
  •   Misuse the name of a legitimate business and call or send emails that trick you into revealing personal information.
  •   Pretend to offer a job, a loan, or an apartment and ask you to send personal information to "qualify."
  •   Steal your wallet, purse, backpack, or mail, and remove your credit cards, driver's license, passport, health insurance card and other items that show personal information. 

Red Flags of Identity Theft :

  •   Mistakes on your bank, credit card, or other account statements
  •   Mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
  •   Your regular bills and account statements don't arrive on time
  •   Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
  •   Calls from debt collectors about debts that you don't belong to you
  •   A notice from the IRS that someone used your social security number
  •   Mail, email, or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child's name>
  •   Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
  •   Businesses turn down your checks
  •   You're turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job

7 Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank recommends the following tips to keep you safe online.

  1. Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Turn on the automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your computer.
  2. Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters and includes a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Don't use the same password for more than one account.
  3. Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources that you are not familiar with. Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at and to the bank, company, or organization impersonated in the email.
  4. Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother's maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  5. Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  6. Shop Safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  7. Read the site's privacy policies. Although sometimes long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects personal information it collects. If you don't see or understand the site's privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

9 Tips to Protect Your Identity

Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank recommends following these tips to keep your information and your money safe.

  1. Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or your account information to anyone who contacts you by email, text, or phone call. Legitimate companies don't ask for information this way. Protect your PIN’s and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.
  2. Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  3. Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don't mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
  4. Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions . Sign up for text and email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Read your credit reports. You have the right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. To order yours, go to or call 1-877-322-8228.
  6. Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is on and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser's padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an "s" after the "http" to be sure the website is secure.
  7. Protect your mobile devices. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell, or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it clean using the manufacturer's recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. 
  8. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
  9. Read your statements. Read your bank, credit card, account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan. If a statement has mistakes or doesn't come on time, contact the business.

Fraudulent Websites

Be aware of copycat websites that use a name that is similar to that of a reputable business/bank. These sites attempt to lure you into clicking on the copycat site and giving personal information, including your account number and password.

5 Ways to Protcect Your Small Business

Corporate Account Takeover (CATO) is a type of fraud were thieves gain access to a firm’s finances to make unauthorized transactions, including transferring funds from the company, creating and adding new fake employees to the payroll, and stealing sensitive customer information that may not be recoverable. The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank recommends following these tips to keep your small business safe.

  1. Educate your employees. You and your employees are the first line of defense against corporate account takeover. A strong security program paired with employee education about warning signs, safe practices, and responses to a suspected takeover are essential to protecting your company and customers.
  2. Protect your online environment. It is important to protect your cyber environment just as you would your cash and physical location. Do not use unprotected internet connections. Encrypt sensitive data and keep updated virus protections on your computer. Use complex passwords and change them periodically.
  3. Partner with your bank to prevent unauthorized transactions. Talk to your banker about programs that safeguard you from unauthorized transactions. Positive Pay and other services offer call backs, device authentication, multi person approval processes and batch limits to help protect you from fraud.
  4. Pay attention to suspicious activity and react quickly. Look out for unexplained account network activity, pop ups, and suspicious emails. If deleted, immediately contact your financial institution, stop all online activity, and remove any systems that may have been compromised. Keep records of what happened.
  5. Understand your responsibilities and liabilities. The account agreement with your bank will detail what commercially reasonable security measures are required in your business. It is critical that you understand and implement the security safeguards in the agreement. If you don't, you could be liable for losses resulting from takeover. Talk to your banker if you have any questions about your responsibilities.

If Your Identity is Stolen...

  1. Flag Your Credit Reports. Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.
    Transunion : 1-888-909-8872
    Experian : 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax : 1-800-685-1111
  2. Order Your Credit Reports. Each company's credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.
  3. Create an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report:
  • File a complaint with the FTC at or 1-877-438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
  • Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report. (These two documents comprise an Identity Theft Report.)

For additional information contact Pittsfield Cooperative Bank at 413-447-7304.