Protecting Your Identity

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that 27.3 million people have been victims of identity theft over the past five years making it the fastest growing types of fraud.  People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name. 

 

What is Identity Theft?

 

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person’s personal identifying information.  Often, identity thieves will use another person’s personal information, such as a social security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, or account number to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans. 

 

Deterring Identity Theft

           

·       Don’t give out your Social Security number, credit card number, or any account details over the phone unless you have initiated the call and know that the business that you are dealing with is a reputable business. 

·       Monitor your credit report.

·       Buy a shredder to shred documents containing personal information.

·       Be careful of what you carry in your wallet and make copies of what is in your wallet.

·       Scrutinize your credit card activity and examine your statements for fraudulent charges.

·       Do not disclose information to strangers via the internet, telephone, applications or through the mail. 

·       Mail payments from a post office and not from your home mail box.

·       Be sure to install firewall software on your home computers.

·       Order checks from a reputable check printer that uses paper stock embedded with security features. 

·       Be aware if you fail to receive bills or other mail.  Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time.  A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and has changed your billing address.

·       Monitoring and periodically reviewing your credit report is an effective tool in fighting identity theft. The three consumer reporting companies are offering a free credit file disclosure once every twelve months so that you can view transactions that may affect your credit rating. Reports may be obtained from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228 to request your free copy

 

If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, you should:

 

·         Contact the three major credit bureaus and report the theft.  Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.  The three bureaus include Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742), and Trans Union (1-800-680-7289).

·         Contact the creditor or financial institution for accounts that have been fraudulent accessed or opened.  Close the accounts and put passwords on any new accounts you open.  Make sure the passwords are not easily identifiable, such as your mother’s maiden name. 

·         File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place.

·         Call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) to report the theft.  The FTC puts the information into a secure consumer fraud database and shares it with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. You can

 

If you discover that you have been a victim of Identity Theft, you may access an affidavit through the Federal Trade Commission that can be used for all creditors that have established credit that was obtained by fraudulent means.  Visit Federal Trade Commission’s pages on identity theft at www.consumer.gov/idtheft

 

For more information, stop by our office for a brochure on “How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft” or visit the following websites.

 

Other Relevant Publications

“Take Charge: Fighting Back against Identity Theft” - www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

 

Websites That Provide Further Guidance and Information

Federal Trade Commission - www.consumer.gov/idtheft and www.ftc.gov

Privacy Rights Clearing House – www.privacyrights.org

Identity Theft Survival Kit – www.identitytheft.org