Protect Yourself against Identity Theft
What is it?
Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve heard, “Identity Theft”. You may know someone who has been
a victim, learned about it from the news, or perhaps have been a victim yourself. Identity theft is out there, and these thieves don’t just steal your credit card and go on a spending spree. They open new accounts, get new credit cards, apply for loans, and even commit crimes all in your name. Once this happens, it is up to you to set the record straight. You may not even realize you’ve been victimized until the situation has elevated. You could be denied loans, faced with higher credit card rates, miss out on job opportunities, or even be arrested.
What can you do to protect yourself?
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-Monitor your credit report regularly for unauthorized inquiries and fraudulent transactions.
-Review your financial statements promptly and carefully.
-Be aware of unauthorized transactions, these are the beginning warning signs.
-Never give your personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet, unless you’ve initiated contact or you can verify the person’s identity. Beware of Pfishing.
-Never give out your mother’s maiden name or your city of birth as identifiers. Ask if you could give a password instead.
-Do not carry your Social Security Card
-Do not give your Social Security number unless necessary. If someone asks for your Social Security number you may first want to ask for what purpose do they need this information. Please note: Legitimate users of your Social Security number are your employer and financial institution, who will need it for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may use it to complete a credit check such as when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment, or sign up for utilities.
-Carry only the necessary information when leaving home such as your identification and ONLY the credit and debit cards you may use. If your purse or wallet is stolen it is much easier to cancel a few cards than remembering all the cards you had and calling to cancel each one.
Shred any pre-approved credit applications and convenience checks received in the mail, which you do not intend to use. Also shred any paperwork you may be discarding that contains your personal information.
How to recognize if you have become a victim?
There are ways to recognize that you may be a victim of identity theft. Some of these include:
-A failure to receive bills or other reoccurring mail
-Receiving credit cards that weren’t applied for
-Being denied credit
-Getting calls or letters from debt collectors
-Receiving merchandise or services you did not request
What to do if you are a victim?
- Place an Initial Fraud Alert on your Credit Report – This will help prevent thieves from opening
new accounts in your name. You can do this by contacting only one of the three consumer
reporting companies to place an alert. The company contacted is responsible for contacting the
other two companies. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries, accounts, and debts that are not justified.
- Close Credit and Bank Accounts that have been Manipulated or Opened Fraudulently –
Contact the institution and let them know you have been a victim of identity theft. Inquire about the procedures to close the account(s), request information on their fraud procedures and complete dispute forms. Always follow up by mailing a letter to the institution regarding the phone contact and include supporting documents. If the fraudulent information has already been reported on your credit report, you will need to file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies. Keep copies of all your documents and notes containing names, dates and comments for your records.
- Report the Incident to Law Enforcement Authorities – Contact the local police or the police in
the community where the identity theft took place. Get the number and a copy of the report filed.
You may need this later to prove you were a victim.
- File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission – By having knowledge of an identity theft, the FTC can help law enforcement authorities locate thieves. They can also refer you to other govern-ment agencies if further action is required. You can file a complaint at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT; TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
The information contained above is to only be used as a guide and was obtained from the Federal Trade
Commission for the Consumer.