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Consumer Protection

Identity Protection, Identity Theft and Elder Abuse

At Merchants Bank of California, N.A. We have no higher priority than the security and privacy of your personal and financial information. We value your trust and we make every effort to protect your information while providing you with exceptional customer service. Our privacy policy explains the precautions we take to protect your personal and financial information. Merchants Bank also wants to help you protect yourself from identity theft, email “phishing” and other crimes targeting consumers. The following information is provided to help you protect yourself from becoming a victim. In addition, we have provided some action items for repairing your good name if you become a victim of identity theft.

Identity Protection

It is more important than ever in today’s climate for consumers to be aware of methods they can utilize to prevent having their personal information compromised. Some measures consumers can take to protect themselves include making sure you do not use the same username and password for all of your accounts; always choose a password that is difficult to guess – avoid using names (husband, wife, kids, pet, etc.), social security number, phone number or address; and avoid common words such as password, logon, state name, etc. It is difficult to be 100% protected as a consumer, but the following tips are provided to help you significantly reduce the likelihood of having your information compromised.

  • NEVER give your social security number, checking account or credit card information to callers performing unsolicited sales calls. This is EXTREMELY important.
  • Never give out your ATM, Check Card, or credit card PIN (Personal Identification Number).
  • Never write your PIN or Password on your ATM or Debit Cards.
  • Review all bank and credit card account statements and report any inaccuracies or unauthorized charges immediately.
  • Report lost or stolen checks, ATM cards, or check cards immediatel.
  • Never leave your checkbook in your vehicle.
  • Protect your ATM, Check Card and credit card receipts. Never leave receipts at ATM machines, on counters at financial institutions or at the gas pump.
  • Make a photocopy of the contents of your wallet: include both sides of your driver’s license and credit, ATM or debit cards.
  • Mail bills from US Postal mail drop boxes. Do not mail bills from your home mailbox.
  • Call the financial institution immediately if you applied for a credit card and do not receive your card when expected.
  • Sign new credit cards immediately after activation.
  • Memorize your Social Security number and all of your passwords for your accounts.
  • Do not carry your Social Security card or birth certificate on you. Please leave them in a secure location.
  • Do not use your date of birth or your Social Security number as your password and do not record passwords on papers you carry with you.
  • Never leave transaction receipts at ATM machines, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.
  • Closely monitor the expiration dates on your credit cards and contact the issuer if you do not receive a replacement prior to the expiration date.
  • Beware of mail or telephone solicitations that offer prizes or awards. Especially if they offer or ask you for personal information or financial account numbers.
  • Match your credit card receipts against your monthly statement for accuracy. Report any inaccuracies or unauthorized charges immediately.
  • Watch for your monthly financial statements and bills. If you do not get them when expected, contact the sender of the statements or bills.
  • Do not reply to or click on a link in an email that threatens to close one of your accounts with little notice or no prior legitimate expectation. Instead, contact the company cited in the email by using a phone number or a billing statement that you are sure is genuine.
  • Look for the “locked padlock” icon on your browser’s status bar or look for https:// at the beginning of a website address before submitting any personal or financial information online. Note, having these two features does not guarantee that the website is legitimate, this simply indicates that the website is a secure site.

Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information (such as your name, social security number, credit card number or other identifying information) without your permission.

Identity thieves use various methods to obtain your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes . Unfortunately, with the wider use of the internet, it has become increasingly easier for them to trick consumers into divulging their personal information.

The following action items will help minimize your exposure if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft:

What to do if you become a victim of Identity Theft
If you believe you have been victim of identity theft, the following action items will help minimize your exposure:

  • File a police report with your local police department.
  • Contact the fraud departments of the three credit bureaus listed below and have a fraud alert placed on your credit files and a victim’s statement asking creditors to call you before opening new accounts or changing existing accounts.
    1. Trans Union 800-680-7289
    2. Experian 888-397-3742
    3. Equifax 800-525-6285
  • Obtain a credit report from each credit bureau and review them for any additional fraudulent activity. You are entitled to one free credit report in a two-year period.
  • Close and change account numbers on all bank and financial accounts you feel may have been compromised.
  • Close all accounts that were opened fraudulently and:
    • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission via their website at http://www.consumer.gov/ldtheft/ or contact them by telephone at 877-438-4338.
    • Obtain an “Identity Theft Affidavit” from the FTC and forward a copy , along with a copy of your police report, to each business where your information was used to open an account without your permission.
  • Keep detailed records of all actions taken by you regarding your case. Document the date, time and full name of everyone you speak to or contact concerning your case. These records will be very important as you attempt to clear your name.

What to do if you believe your Merchants Bank account has been compromised:
Merchants Bank does not contact customers to request or verify security information about login id’s, passwords, PIN’s or other security measures in place to protect your account. However, when you contact Merchants Bank, our employees may ask for specific information to verify your identity to ensure your privacy and protection. If you feel your Merchants Bank account has been compromised, contact us at (310) 549-4350 and ask to speak to a member of Merchants Bank’s Operations Department.

It is our goal to keep consumers informed and educated in taking the right precautions to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and account fraud. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Operations Department, Monday thru Friday 9:00 am until 5:00 pm Pacific Time. We are closed Saturday and Sunday.

For more information on Identity Theft and other types of account fraud, please visit the following websites:

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is one of the most disturbing and rapidly growing areas of crime in our society. Abuse comes in many forms: physical, emotional or financial exploitation. The elderly are especially vulnerable to financial abuse that can be devastating and leave them without the finances to provide for their needs. Under federal and state law, residents in skilled nursing facilities are guaranteed certain rights and protections.

Examples of financial elder abuse include embezzlement of money or any other property, telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending and home improvement and estate planning scams.

We should all be doing our part to ensure that the elderly are given the opportunity to live with security and dignity, whether they live independently, with family, in an assisted-living setting or a long-term care facility.

For more information visit the California Department of Aging:
Visit http://www.aging.ca.gov/

You can review the Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse:
Visit http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/pdfs/citizens_guide.pdf