Quick Tips for Protecting Yourself
from Becoming a Victim of Fraud or Identity Theft

At MAWSS, the protection of your information – including your identity – is our top priority. We have a number of safety measures in place to help protect you, including industry-standard encrypting technologies on our Web site and identity theft guidelines. You can depend on us to safeguard your personal and financial information you provide as our customer.

There are many proactive things you can do to protect your information and help prevent fraud and identity theft.

Here are some easy tips to follow in several areas that may put your personal information at risk.


Online Security


The Internet is a convenient way to access your accounts and communicate with MAWSS. By following these tips, you can enjoy a safe and secure online experience.

  • Keep passwords to yourself. Never share your passwords or PINs with anyone.
  • Memorize your passwords. Never write your passwords down.
  • Create difficult passwords. Be creative with your passwords. Stay away from obvious passwords like your zip code, year of birth, or sensitive information such as your mother's maiden name or your Social Security Number.
  • Change your password often. Change your passwords every 30 to 60 days.

 Online Banking

  • Review your bank and/or brokerage account statements when they arrive to reconcile the balance and check for unusual transactions.
  • Stay at your computer once you sign on. Never leave your computer unattended while using any online banking or investing service.
  • Sign off when you're done. It's important to sign off completely when you are finished banking online. This is even more critical if you're using a computer that other people can access.
  • Use only secure sites. If you are providing financial information, be sure the site uses secure communications. One of the ways to determine if a site is secure is to look for the padlock icon usually located at the bottom of the Web page. If you double click on the icon, a pop-up window will appear with information about the Web site. The information in this window should match the Web site you're visiting.
  • Trust is important. Do business only with financial institutions that you know and trust.
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious Web sites. Watch out for copycat sites that may try to look like financial institutions or other trusted companies that you do business with. To make sure you're visiting a legitimate site, type the business' address directly into your browser, or use a bookmark that you previously created.
  • Verify that it's FDIC insured. If you're considering an online bank, verify the bank is legitimate and that its deposits are insured by the FDIC.
  • Use public computers with caution. Only access your personal financial information from a computer you trust. Internet kiosks and cyber cafes may not be as secure as your personal computer.

Shopping Online

  • Limit the amount of personal information “out there” by not completing Internet “profiles” for rebates & contests. Be cautious with online resumé posting, electronic mailing lists, secured sites for online purchases, listings in Who’s Who guides, and other public data sources.
  • Secure shopping. When placing orders online, check for the "closed padlock," which is usually located in the bottom corner of your browser. The padlock Padlock Iconicon indicates that when you submit your information, it will be sent securely. If you double click on the icon, a window will appear with information about the Web site. The information in this window should match the Web site you're visiting.
  • Verified by Visa®. By registering for Verified by Visa, a free service that protects your Personal or Business Visa® Check Card from unauthorized use when you shop online, you help protect yourself against financial loss. When you register for this service, you receive a unique password that you'll use at checkout on shopping Web sites.  Learn more about Verified by Visa® by visiting https://usa.visa.com/personal/security/vbv/index.html.
  • Utilize trusted merchants. Only shop with online stores that you know and trust.

Browsing the Internet

  • Review site policies. Before entering any personal or financial information on a Web site, review the security and privacy policies posted on that site. These policies usually describe how the Web site collects and uses information about you. By knowing more about the policies of a site, you can decide if you want to continue visiting the site.
  • Keep your browser updated. Newer versions of Internet browsers have the latest safety features that protect your computer from dangerous programs like spyware and viruses. If you have an older version of a browser, make sure you install the latest versions on your computer.
  • Use caution when downloading. Some software downloads from the Internet can harm your computer and compromise your security. Do not download any software from Web sites you do not recognize or trust.
  • Keep anti-virus software up to date. By keeping anti-virus update to date, you can not only avoid viruses but help decrease the number of fraudulent emails and Web pages you might encounter.
  • Delete personal or financial information on public computers. If you use a public computer, someone else may be able to access your information or trace the Web sites you visited. To avoid this possibility, delete the cache memory on the computer to remove any traces of your visit. All Internet browsers have a "help" section that tells you how to delete the cache.
  • Beware of spyware. Spyware is software that tracks how you use your computer and which Web sites you visit. Spyware programs could get installed on your computer without your knowledge when you visit certain Web sites, open unsolicited emails, or click on links in emails.
  • Watch out for “scammers”.  Scammers also use "key-logging" programs that track how you use your keyboard. If a key-logging program is installed on your computer, you could unknowingly reveal sensitive information like your PINs or passwords to scammers. You should consider buying and keeping current anti-spyware software to better help protect your confidential information. The software will help identify and delete any spyware or key-logging programs installed on your computer.
  • Use secure messaging when it's available. Most MAWSS Online Forms are secure.  You can also securely communicate with MAWSS through our secure (HTTPS) contact forms. Secure emails and online forms ensure that your personal information is transmitted safely over the Internet.
  • Use caution when opening unsolicited emails and attachments. Viruses can be passed along via email and harm your computer. Be careful when opening emails – especially from someone you don't know.
  • Don't click and tell. Never respond to unsolicited emails asking you to provide, update, or verify your personal and account information. These emails are scams. MAWSS will never send unsolicited emails asking for personal or account information, such as passwords, Social Security Numbers, PINs, credit or Check Card numbers, or other confidential information.

Credit Card Security


Credit card fraud costs cardholders and banks hundreds of millionsof dollars every year. Credit card fraud often occurs after the card is stolen. However, thieves can also fraudulently use your account number while your card sits safely in your wallet or purse. These tips will help you minimize the chances of credit card fraud:

  • Limit the number of credit cards and other identification information carried in your wallet or purse. Do not routinely carry your checkbook.
  • Consider signing your cards with “see Photo ID”. This will help ensure your identity is confirmed each time you present your card for a purchase.
  • Store your PIN in a safe place.  Preferably, memorize your PIN. Never write it down and store it with your card.
  • Use your credit card number carefully. Don't enter your card number online unless you're on a secure site, and don't send your credit card number to anyone in an unsecured email.
  • Maintain your records. Keep a record of all your account numbers, expiration dates, and contact information for each issuer in a secure place. This will come in handy if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
  • Report a lost or stolen card immediately. If you act quickly, you will minimize the potential loss and liability to your accounts.
  • Save and match receipts. Save your receipts and compare them against your billing statements. When discarding receipts, tear them up or shred them so no one can access them in your trash.
  • Monitor your statements monthly. Make sure you recognize all charges on your financial statements. If you see any suspicious transactions, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately.
  • Watch voided transactions. Keep a close watch on store credits and other cancelled transactions. Carefully review your receipts and statements and make sure voided transactions do not post to your account.
  • Destroy duplicates. Do not leave carbon copies of our receipts behind. Make sure you tear or shred the receipts when you discard them as they contain important information about your identity and accounts.
  • Carry only what's necessary. Only carry cards that you need, leaving others in a safe place at home.
  • Transact with only those you trust. Don't give out your account number unless you know and trust the company.
  • Save credit card receipts and check them against statements received from creditors. Do not leave them in shopping bags where they can get lost or stolen.
Other Helpful Information
  • Don't ignore collection calls for loans that you do not have. If you don't have a loan with a creditor, an identity thief may have used your name and personal information and ailed to make payments.
  • Don't ignore address change notifications. If you receive a notice and you didn't change your address, call the bank immediately. This may be an attempt to take over your account and divert statements.
  • Notify MAWSS if you do not receive a statement or bill on time to make sure the address has not been changed or your bill has not been stolen from the mail.
  • Keep your address and telephone number information current with all your creditors, even if you don't have a balance. This will enable us to reach you quickly if there is an unauthorized attempt to obtain credit in your name.
  • Keep your daytime contact information current on your credit bureau fraud victim statements.
  • Accept and return calls from MAWSS as soon as possible, regarding questions about your recent loan application or a check that you wrote. Doing so will assist us greatly in making sure that we do not return an authorized check and do not pay an unauthorized check.
  • Check credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus annually. Look for errors & evidence of identity theft.
  • Know the approximate billing cycle for all credit cards and utility bills (e.g., cell phone) and call creditors immediately if bills are not received within a week of the due date.
  • Use a crosscut shredder, fireplace or woodstove to destroy pre-approved credit card offers, bank or brokerage statements, old pay stubs and tax records, credit card receipts, and other sensitive documents.
  • Destroy documents containing information of interest to identity thieves including utility bills, personal correspondence that could corroborate your identity, cancelled checks, expired credit cards, etc.
  • Avoid giving out Social Security Number (SSN) or bank account numbers to unsolicited callers or orally (e.g.,in a store) where others can listen.
  • Have a post office box or locked mailbox for incoming mail.
  • Place outgoing mail in a secured collection box or at the post office – NOT in an unsecured home mailbox or rural route mailbox.
  • Have mail held or picked up by a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member when you are away.
  • Question how personal information will be used before revealing it to anyone. Say “no” where possible, or ask to use another type of identifier.
  • Be cautious about leaving personal information lying around your home or office, especially if it would be accessible to a roommate, babysitter, cleaning service, home contractor, etc. who has access to your home or office when you’re not there.
  • Avoid carrying your Social Security card or other identification containing your SSN (e.g., college ID, military ID, employee ID, health insurance card, etc) in your wallet.
  • Avoid printing your driver’s license or SSN on personal checks.
  • Be aware of who has access to your personal information at work and/or places where you do business (e.g., utility companies, medical providers) and take steps to question or limit unauthorized access, where needed.
  • Cross out your credit card number or bank account number with a magic marker on receipts for travel or other expenses submitted to any employer, charitable or professional organization, or other entity for expense reimbursement or for documentation of any type (e.g., tax preparation, product rebates).
  • Be careful about completing postcards (e.g., for product warranties, contests, etc.). Mail them in envelopes if they contain sensitive information.
  • Practice “general security consciousness” by not leaving wallets or purses unattended, even for a few moments (e.g., at dances or in supermarket carts), zipping purses shut, buttoning back wallet pockets, and putting house lights on timers when away. Use secure door locks, leave questionable “sensitive” information spaces blank on applications, store important papers (e.g., car title) in a safe deposit box or home safe, and keep a list of credit card account numbers and contact information handy, in case you need to report a loss quickly.