Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can destroy your credit and your good name and can cost you time and money.
Common Ways ID Theft Happens
Thieves may use a variety of methods to steal your personal information including but not limited to:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a “change of address” form.
- Traditional “Stealing” Tactics. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. Employees may steal personnel records from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.
What you Can Do To Prevent ID Theft
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before throwing them out.
- Protect your Social Security Number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on your check. Only give your Social Security number out if absolutely necessary or ask if you can provide some other identifier.
- Do not click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware to protect your home computer and keep them up to date.
- Choose passwords wisely; don't pick your birth date, your mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
Routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements to detect anything that looks to be suspicious.
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Charges for purchases that you know you did not make
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
Order copies of your credit reports and inspect them carefully to make certain all is in order and does represent your true payment history.
Monitor your credit information by ordering copies of your credit reports
- The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies - Equifax, Transunion and Experian – to give you a free copy of your credit report if you ask for it.
- Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order your free credit reports EACH YEAR.
Review financial accounts and billings statements regularly, looking for unexplained charges that you know you did not make.
Defend against ID Theft as soon as you suspect it.
- Place a “Fraud alert” on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The alerts inform creditors that they must follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. You can place an initial 90 day fraud alerts by calling one of the credit bureaus which should be sufficient:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN(397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
If you place a fraud alert, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports Again, look the reports over carefully for inquiries from companies you have had not contact with, accounts that you know you did not open and unexplained debts that are appearing on the report.
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
- Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your approval. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
- Use the ID theft affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.
- Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Make certain to keep good records of your conversations about the theft and to keep copies of all documents obtained.
File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want documented proof of the crime.
Last Modified: Friday, March 22, 2013