Don’t Let It Happen to You
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone obtains a person’s personal identifying information such as their Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Mother’s Maiden Name or Account Numbers, and they use this information without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft.
How Identity Thieves Get Your Information:
An identity thief works in many ways to get your information such as:
- Get information from business or other institution by:
- Stealing records or information while they at work;
- Bribing an employee who has access to these records; and
- Hacking into those records
- Going through trash (individuals or business)
- Getting your credit report by pretending to be someone else (employer, landlord, etc) who may have a legal right to access your report.
- Steal your credit or debit card numbers by use of an attached device at an ATM machine.
- Steal your wallet or purse containing identification, and credit and debit cards.
- Steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, and tax information.
- Complete a change of address card with the Post Office to send your mail to another location.
- Steal personal information from your home.
How Identity Thieves Use Your Information:
Once an identity thief has your information, they may:
- Go on spending sprees using your credit or debit card account numbers.
- Open new credit card accounts by using your personal information.
- Take out a loan in your name.
- Establish phone services in your name.
- Write counterfeit checks in your name.
- Drain your bank account.
- File for bankruptcy under your name.
- Give the police your name during an arrest.
You know you’ve had your identity stolen when:
- Your credit card bills show unauthorized changes.
- Your credit rating takes a major dip because of delinquencies on loans or credit cards of which you had no knowledge.
- You are denied employment, credit, loans, mortgages, government benefits, utilities, and leases because your credit report and background checks show fraudulently incurred debts or wrongful criminal records.
- You receive phone calls from debt collectors.
Start Protecting Yourself Now:
All that a thief needs is your name, address, and Social Security number to do damage.
- Order copies of your credit report annually to ensure that information is accurate. This is provided annually free to all individuals. You can order the Free Credit Report Annually by one of the following three ways:
- Online at: www.annualcreditreport.com (see Special Links tab)
- Or by phone by calling: 1-877-322-8228
- Or by mail by sending you written request to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P. O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348
- Keep an eye on your purse or wallet, and keep them in a safe place at all times.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet, and don’t put the number on your checks. Review your records of your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement from the Social Security Administration to verify that your information is accurate. To Request a Social Security Statement:
- Do not share personal information with random people you don’t know.
- Read bank account and credit card statements as soon as they arrive and look for unusual transactions and suspicious activity. If your bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with creditors. A missing credit card bill could mean an ID thief has control of your credit card account and changed your billing address.
- Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates or employ outside help of service workers.
- Shred any charge receipts, checks, expired credit cards, and all personal documents before putting them in the trash.
- Don’t provide, confirm, personal information to a telephone solicitor unless you initiate the call. Before releasing personal data, learn how it is to be used or if it will be shared with others.
- Don’t keep passwords or PINs in your purse or wallet. Choose passwords and PINs that are not predictable. Avoid using the last four digits of your Social Security number, your middle name, or birth date. Shield your PIN from curious onlookers when using an ATM.
- If you plan to provide information online, make sure the site displays a locked padlock symbol in the lower right corner of your browser, ensuring it has an encrypted connection. Don’t deal with sites that ask for more than your name, address, phone number, and credit card number. Regularly update your virus protection software. Don’t download files sent by strangers or click on hyperlinks from e-mail senders you don’t know. Install a fire wall program, especially important for a high-speed internet connection, to prevent hackers from getting to your computer. Be careful about storing financial information on your laptop computer. Often they are stolen for the information that they contain. Before you throw out any compact disks, check for the information they contain personal information such as Social Security number or PINs and destroy them
If You Are A Victim:
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on credit report and review all information on your credit reports. Call the fraud divisions of one of the credit reporting agencies and request that a “Fraud Alert” be placed on your name and Social Security number. It is only necessary to call one credit reporting agency. Within 24 hours, each bureau will attach a “Fraud Alert” to your file. The single call also opts you out of all pre-approved offers of credit or insurance for two years, and will get you a mailed copy of your credit file. Reporting fraud to an agency will require any company or creditor to contact you to authorize new credit. Later you should follow up on your call with a letter and enclose a copy of a police report. By doing this, you are protected legally should the agencies fail to remove the crime from your record. To report identity theft, contact one of these credit reporting agencies:
- Notify your Financial Institution: Inform them of your situation and ask them to contact you if there is any unusual activity on your account. Change your PINs.
- File a Police Report: Contact police in the jurisdiction where the theft took place. File a report and keep a copy for yourself.
- File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: Share your identity theft complaint with the FTC to help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can also refer your complaint to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws that the FTC enforces. File your complaint by:
- Online: www.consumer.gov/idtheft
- By Phone: 1-877-438-4338 and at 1-866-653-4262
- By Mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse
- Federal Trade Commission
- 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
- Washington, DC 20580
- Call your postmaster if you think the mail was used.
- Call the creditors who opened accounts in your name. Inform them of the identity theft and close the accounts. Get copies of all transactions and applications on the accounts. For your own protection, you will need to follow up in writing with request of account closing, and include copies – not originals of supporting documents and send these letters by Certified Mail with Return Receipts requested. As proof, you will need to keep a copy of all letters that you are send, and the returned delivery receipts.
For additional information, please contact:
Identity Theft Resource Center (non-profit):