Stay Alert. Stay Informed. Protect Yourself Against Fraud.

Don't be a victim of fraud or scams. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) website at to learn more about recent scams, getting a free credit report, reporting identity theft and more.

You can also help protect yourself from fraud when using your Visa credit or debit card. Click here to learn what types of fraud exist and how to prevent them when making in-store purchases and shopping online.

Be diligent and take caution when asked to provide personal information concerning your finances or accounts, especially if you did not initiate the inquiry. Remember, Penn State Federal will never call you to ask for your account number, password, PIN, or other sensitive information.

ID Theft Glossary

Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone uses your name, social security number or other personal information to establish accounts in your name.
Mail Fraud
Mail fraud is still the number one form of fraud in the US. Identity thieves steal your mail, which may include pre-approved credit card applications, to obtain your personal information.
Short for “malicious software,” it refers to any harmful software that affects your computer. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses or spyware.
When hackers redirect internet traffic from one website to a different, identical-looking site in order to trick you into entering your username and password into the database on their fake site.
The act of tricking someone into giving them confidential information or tricking them into doing something that they normally wouldn’t do or shouldn’t do. For example: sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.
Pretexting is the collection of an individual’s personal information under false pretenses typically over the phone or via e-mail.
Shoulder Surfing
Shoulder surfing is the name given to the procedure that identity thieves use to find out your PIN. They either hang around close to the ATM, or wherever you may be entering your PIN, or they can even watch from a distance, using binoculars.
Skimming is another method identity thieves use to get your personal information. It’s usually done by an employee of a restaurant, a gas station or any other place where you swipe your card. Often, they use swiping tools, which they use to quickly swipe your card. A good way to prevent skimming is to never let your card out of your sight.
Unsolicited commercial emails. Many of these come from legitimate companies but many also come from questionable businesses.
A fraudulent website or email that appears to be from a well-known company and attempts to get you to provide, update or confirm personal information. Similar to pharming.
General term for any technology that gathers information about a person or organization without their knowledge. Advertisers or other interested parties often use spyware programming to gather and relay information.
Trojans piggyback themselves inside something that you actually want, like the old Trojan Horse story. For example, you download a video game, and you actually do get the video game you wanted, but you get the trojan packed along with it. You can avoid trojans by only downloading files from trusted sources.
A virus is malware that can copy itself, like a biological virus. It usually lies dormant inside of an executable file until someone runs that file. When run, the virus may spread to other executable files on your system. You can avoid viruses by scanning files, especially downloaded files and email attachments, with anti-virus software.
Using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers to steal user information.
A worm also self-replicates, but spreads from computer to computer using the internet. Unlike a virus, the user need not download or run a file to become infected. You need to only be connected to the internet in order to become infected by a worm. You can avoid worms by using a firewall.