One of the ways to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft is to learn how identity theft occurs and best practices to protect your information. Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information (e.g. social security number, credit card numbers, etc.) and uses it to fraudulently apply for credit or open accounts without your knowledge. It can take time, money and patience to resolve these issues.

Identity thieves obtain your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in numerous ways, including:

Stolen Wallet: When a thief steals your wallet, they may gain instant access to all the information they need to steal your identity.

Change of Address: This is a classic identity theft technique – fraudsters change the address where you receive mail and divert your personal information into the wrong hands.

Skimmers / Handheld Skimmers: Fraudsters can steal your personal information anywhere you use your card by swiping it – literally – during a legitimate transaction (e.g. making a purchase in a store, using an ATM, anywhere you use your card). Fraudsters swipe your account information when you insert your card, and then transmit your information to a nearby computer.

Online Shopping: Fraudsters are experts at duplicating legitimate online storefronts. Before you know it, you’ve completed your transaction and inadvertently handed over the personal information they need to commit fraud.

Mail Theft: Fraudsters scout for unlocked mailboxes and steal your mail – and your identity – right from your front door.

Dumpster Diving: Fraudsters will search the trash dumpsters of businesses to try and find potentially valuable customer information that has been carelessly discarded.

Phishing/ Smishing/ Vishing: Fraudsters are busy impersonating legitimate businesses via email, online advertisements and text in order to acquire your personal information or install malicious software (malware). Once installed, malware can run programs on your online devices without your consent or knowledge, and transmit your personal information via the internet.

Malware, Malicious Software, Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses and Spyware: Cyber criminals can install malicious software to exploit weaknesses of popular software. Once installed, malware can run programs on your computer without your consent or knowledge, including transmitting personal information via the internet.

Data Breaches: Computer hackers regularly target the secure private networks of government agencies and/or private companies to steal personal information. You may – but not always – receive notice from these entities that your private information was compromised.

What information is considered your Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?
  • Full Name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Driver’s License, State-Issued ID or Passport Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Home Address
  • Credit Card, Debit Card or Bank Account Numbers
  • Secret Information (such as mother’s maiden name, PIN or password; sometimes stolen with a wallet or purse)

What to Do If You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, it is important to act as quickly as possible to minimize the damage to your finances and credit standing.

1. Notify your creditor or financial institution of any identified unauthorized transactions on your account and ask to file a claim. If you are a Comerica customer, please contact Comerica Bank at 877.881.8955, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST, and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST.

2. Flag or freeze your credit reports: Call the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert or freeze to be placed on your credit report. There is no cost to place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit file. A credit freeze locks down your credit report, while a fraud alert allows creditors to obtain a copy of your credit report if they take steps to verify your identity. An initial fraud alert is good for one year. Additionally, you should order a copy of your report and review the information carefully. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.

Equifax:    800.685.1111 a new window)

Experian:  888.397.3742 a new window)

Transunion:      800.909.8872  (Opens a new window)

3. Create an identity theft report: File a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at a new window) or 877.IDTHEFT. Your complete complaint is called an FTC Affidavit. Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police station where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Don't forget to obtain copy of yourself.

4. You can also check your credit reports – for free every few months by visiting a new window) or calling 877.322.8228. Federal law allows you to receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Accounts on your credit report that you don't recognize could indicate identity theft.

Tips to Help Protect Your Information and Identity from Being Stolen

Don't share your personal information

• Don't provide your Social Security number, account information, PINs or passwords to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone.

• Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites (i.e. Facebook).

• Lock-up your personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.

Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing the away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Also, don't mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

Use web banking to protect yourself.

• Monitor your financial accounts online regularly for fraudulent transactions.

• Consider enrolling in your Comerica Web Banking® and utilize eStatements to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.

• Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank to notify you when a transaction is outside your normal activity.

Protect your computer, tablet and mobile device

• Create strong passwords that mix letters, numbers and special characters. Don't use one password for everything and change them frequently.

• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on all of your devices that browse the internet. Set the operating systems and web browser security system to update automatically.

• Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for a fraudster to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.

• Be wise about Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places are convenient, but often they're not secure. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network, and send information through websites or mobile apps, it might be accessed by someone else. To protect your information when using wireless hotspots, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted, and avoid using mobile apps that require personal or financial information.

Don't click the link. The threat of cybercrime most often begins with “phishing”. Cyber criminals attempt to infect your computer with malicious software. Malware includes viruses, spyware and key loggers that get inadvertently loaded on your computer, allowing the criminals to monitor, control and track your online movements, steal your passwords and compromise your accounts.

• Opening attachments, even those that appear to come from a friend or co-worker, can install malware on your computer.

• Type a site’s URL directly into your browser. Links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising can send you to sites that masquerade as your favorite or appealing new sites, but may automatically download malware without your knowledge.

Don't respond to sweepstakes, prize promotions or free lunch seminars. These seminars, sweepstakes and prize promotions are designed to gather your personal identifying information and use it to scam you out of your money. Especially beware if an email or phone call directs you to pay for processing, taxes, or delivery, or provide bank account information in order to "verify your identity". A genuine prize company will never require you to send any money or disclose your banking information.

Comerica Bank is committed to safeguarding the privacy of your personal information

However, there are some steps that you can take on your own to help protect your information from being stolen.

Other Agencies

To remove your name from mailing lists:

Mail Preference Service Data and Marketing Assoc.
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512

To remove your name from telephone solicitation lists:

The Federal Government National Do Not Call Registry

Call: 888.382.1222

Online: a new window)

To opt-out of pre-approved offers and marketing lists:

Call: 888.567.8688

To locate your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Office:

Call: 800.275.8777 and ask to speak with a customer service representative

To report that your Social Security Number is being used by someone else:

Call: 800.269.0271 to reach the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General