IDENTITY THEFT IS ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING CRIMES IN THE UNITED STATES
With a minimal amount of information (e.g., Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Address, etc.), a thief can assume an individual’s identity and conduct numerous crimes such as:
- Opening new accounts and writing bad checks.
- Establishing new credit card accounts and not paying the bills.
- Obtaining personal or car loans.
- Getting cash advances.
- Changing credit card mailing addresses and charging on your existing accounts.
HOW DOES THEFT OCCUR?
Here are some common scenarios on how a thief can obtain your personal information:
- MAIL THEFT
Thieves watch for unattended/unlocked mailboxes and steal mail that would have personalized information.
- DUMPSTER DIVING
Thieves rummage through trash cans searching for unshredded personal information that they can use or sell.
- PURSE OR WALLET STOLENS
Stolen purses and wallets usually contain plenty of credit/debit cards and personal identification. A thief can and will have a field day by using the victim’s information.
Thieves access data that consumers share through phone listings, directories, memberships, etc. Thieves can also purchase sensitive personal information about someone (e.g. name, address, phone number, date of birth, Social Security Number, etc.) from an online broker.
ACTIONS THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN IF YOU DO BECOME THE VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT:
- Contact the three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion).
- File a police report.
- Contact the Fraud Departments of creditors (credit card issuers, phone companies, utilities, credit unions, banks, etc.).
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Internet is full of web sites that offer advice on ID theft. To access publications on the subject and find out more about what you can do to protect yourself, check out these sites:
CALL FOR ACTION………………………………www.callforaction.org
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION…………www.consumer.gov/idtheft
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION………………..www.ssa.gov
U.S. POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE…www.usps.gov/postalinspectors
What Can You Do To Guard Against Identity Theft?
- Shred all personal and financial information before you throw it away.
- Keep your personal and credit union/credit card records in a secure place.
- Call the post office immediately if you are not receiving your mail. Some crooks are able to forge your signature and have your mail forwarded elsewhere.
- Be aware of others nearby when entering your Personal Identification Number (PIN) at an ATM.
- Limit the number of credit/debit cards and other personal information that you carry in your wallet or purse.
- Report lost or stolen credit/debit cards immediately.
- Cancel all inactive credit/debit card accounts. Even though thy might not be used, those accounts will appear on credit reports
- If you have applied for a credit/debit card and have not received the card in a timely manner, immediately notify the financial institution involved.
- Closely monitor the expiration dates on your credit/debit cards. Contact the issuer if the replacement card is not received prior to the expiration date.
- Sign all new cards upon receipt.
- Review credit reports annually to safeguard your identity.
- Use passwords on your credit/debit cards, credit union accounts and phone cards. (Avoid using the standard mother’s maiden name, birthdate and the last four digits of your Social Security number).
- Match your credit/debit card receipts against monthly bills and statements to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.
- Check account statements carefully to ensure all charges, share drafts or withdrawals you authorized.
- Call (888)5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688) if you would like to stop receiving pre-approved credit offers.
- Send your name and address to the following address if you would like to remove your name from many national direct mail list:
DMA Mail Preference Service
PO Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
- Send your name, address and telephone number to the following address to reduce the number of telephone solicitations from many national marketers:
DMA Telephone Preference Service
PO BOX 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014
- Volunteer any personal information when you use your credit/debit card.
- Give your Social Security number, credit/debit card number or any credit union account information details over the phone unless you have initiated the call.
- Leave receipts at ATM’s, financial institution counters or unattended gas pumps.
- Leave envelopes containing your credit/debit card payments or checks in your home mailbox for postal carrier pickup.
- Record your Social Security number and/or passwords on paper and store them in your wallet or purse. Memorize your numbers and/or passwords.
- Disclose account numbers and other personal data on any Web site or online service location unless you received a secured authentication key from your provider.