Identity Theft Prevention
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Identity theft is one of the most devastating scams a consumer can fall victim to. Because of the nature of the crime victims do not realize their identity has been stolen until they are denied credit, turned down for a job or sent a bill for purchases they did not make. By that time the consumers good name and credit history may be ruined. Rebuilding good credit in the aftermath of identity theft can take months or even years.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information - like your name, Social Security number or credit card number - without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. It is estimated that 9-10 million consumers will become the victim of identity theft this year. The losses are in the BILLIONS annually.
We hope you never find yourself as the victim of identity theft. If you do, this information should help you regain your true credit history with the least amount of time, cost , and effort.
How does someone steal your identity?
- Careless sharing of personal information- shoulder surfing.
- Burglary/theft- from cars, home, workplace, etc.
- Mail theft- both incoming and outgoing mail.
- "Dumpster Diving" from both homes and businesses.
- Computer intrusion via the internet.
- Pretexting"- Obtaining your information under false pretenses.
- Credit card "Skimming."
Tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Never share personal information with someone you don't know for unnecessary reasons.
- Don't carry sensitive identity information (like your Social Security Card) in your purse or wallet. Keep those items secured at home.
- Pick up your incoming mail as soon as possible after delivery. Consider a PO box if this is a problem.
- When planning your vacation, call the U.S. Postal Service to request a mail hold: 1-800-275-8777, or www.usps.com/holdmail.
- Never place outgoing mail in your curbside mailbox, use a postal service collection box instead.
- When traveling or making Internet purchases use a credit card instead of a debit card. Fraudulent charges are easier to resolve with a credit card.
- Have your checks delivered to your bank instead of your home.
- Don't have your social security number or drivers license number printed on your checks.
- Sanitize or shred any sensitive documents that you would normally throw away.
- Remove your name from mailing lists, Internet sites, etc. Call 1-888-5OPTOUT.
- Have a firewall program running anytime you are connected to the Internet.
- Select intricate passwords for Internet-accessible accounts. Avoid using easily guessed information, like your mother's maiden name, your birth date or your phone number. Combine letters, numbers and special characters to make strong passwords.
- Delete files containing personal information before disposing of a computer.
- Carefully review your financial statements on a regular basis for possible errors and or fraud.
- Check your credit regularly.
The Major Credit Bureaus Are:
PO Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
1-800-680-7289 (Report Fraud)
PO Box 9352
Allen TX 75013
1-888-397-3742 (Report Fraud)
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
1-800-525-6285 (Report Fraud)
Your Access to Free Credit Reports:
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. To order, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form (available at www.ftc.gov/credit) and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
What to do if you have been the victim of identity theft:
Report the identity theft to the police or sheriff in the area you live in.
- Identity theft is usually a felony and charges may be filed against the suspect. Once you have filed a report ask for a report number. You will need this to help correct your credit rating.
Report the identify theft to your financial institution and other creditors.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with
- You may be asked to fill out affidavits of fraud or forgery.
- Your bank or creditor can assist you with opening new accounts.
Contact all three credit bureaus and have a "Fraud Alert" Placed in your file.
- The credit bureaus are required to block information resulting from identity theft. They are also required to block any adverse information on your credit report that results from identify theft.
Notify the US Postal Inspection Service if your mail has been stolen.
Notify the Social Security Administration regarding fraud with your Social Security Number.
Notify the DMV if your Drivers License or ID card was stolen or misused.
Identity theft cases can be difficult but not impossible to investigate and prosecute.
This is due to:
- Identity theft is a crime that can be committed over great distances especially via the Internet.
- Often the victims and suspects may be in different states or even in different countries.
- Many victims don't realize they have been victimized until months or years after the crime has occurred.
- This is why it is so critical to check your statements and credit regularly.
- Identity theft can be done relatively easily and anonymously.
- This is why it is so important to be careful with your personal information.
Help For Victims - Where to go For Help:
- If you are the victim of identity theft contact your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
Resources for reporting ID theft and protecting your credit history:
Federal Trade Commission - www.consumer.gov/idtheft
Better Business Bureau - www.boise.bbb.org
Attorney General's Office - www2.state.id.us/ag