What is identity theft?
Identity Theft is when someone steals your identity and opens credit cards, bank accounts or other accounts to commit fraud or theft, using YOUR IDENTITY!
Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Hundreds of thousands of cases continue to be reported each year with no certain slow down in the future.
There are several things that you can do to protect your identity. Unfortunately, there is no 100% guard against protecting yourself, but there are ways to make it more difficult for a thief to steal your information.
How can you protect yourself?
- Review your Credit Report at least once a year. Look for any discrepancies or accounts that may not be yours.
- Consider opting out of unsolicited credit card offers. To do this call 1-888-567-8688.
- Be wary of "shoulder surfers." These are individuals who try to get close enough to you to obtain your PIN numbers.
- Monitor your bank and other statements carefully. Make note of the times that you receive your bills, so you’ll know if a bill is missing or unauthorized purchases have been made.
- Limit the number of credit cards that you carry with you.
- Buy a shredder ... and use it! Shred anything with personal information on it such as old receipts, old bank statements, everyday bills, pre-approved credit card offers, medical statements and documents with personal information on it.
- Keep track of your credit card receipts and store them in a safe place until your credit card statement arrives for you to reconcile.
- Be careful with what you do with your credit card statements, especially since many still have full account numbers and expiration dates listed on them.
- When completing credit applications be sure to fill all applications out completely and consistently. Every bill that you receive should be addressed exactly the same.
- Do not have your Social Security Number printed on your checks.
- Do not carry your Social Security Card with you in your purse or wallet.
- Make sure any site you do business with has a secure site. You’ll know this if the Web page you're on begins with "https" instead of "http".
- If you're shopping online look for the Verisign Certificate, the Trust-e symbol, the Better Business Bureau symbol or a certificate of similar type indicating that the business has been audited and deemed trustworthy.
- If you are moving, contact your creditors immediately to get your information updated.
- Never give your credit card or social security number to anyone by telephone even if you made the call, unless you can positively verify that the individual or caller is legitimate.
What can you do if you become a victim of identity theft?
- Contact the fraud departments of all the major credit bureaus and ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no credit be granted without your permission. Request a copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus; they must give you a free copy of your report if it is inaccurate because of fraud. You should request this in writing also.
- You will automatically receive a free credit report from each of the three agencies and you will be opted out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers once the credit-reporting agencies have been notified.
- After you receive your report be sure to make note of the number assigned to your account. This will be helpful in communications with the credit-reporting agencies.
- Write a victim statement explaining what happened to you and ask for it to be added to your file at each credit-reporting agency.
- Contact creditors where any of your accounts have been tampered with or an account opened without your knowledge. Put your complaint in writing.
- Change all of your account passwords.
- If your SSN has been used fraudulently, notify the Office of the Inspector General. Be sure to ask for a copy of your "Personal Earnings and Benefits Statements," and check for accuracy.