What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft may occur when thieves obtain personal information such as social security numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, your income, your name, address and phone numbers. Such stolen information can be used without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. A fact that surprises many consumers is that a large percentages of identity theft is committed by someone the victim knows. This is why it is important not to share confidential information such as passwords.
Why Protect Yourself?
Identity theft is a serious crime. Victims of identity theft can incur not only a loss of money but a frustrating loss of time as they work to clear the damage criminals have made of their good name and credit record. If identity theft goes undetected for an extended period of time, it could take a great deal of time to fully repair the damage that has occurred. This makes regular preventive action important.
What Can I Do?
The good news is that there are many steps you can do to ensure that you are not an easy target. We have strict procedures for protecting and monitoring your information when it is in our care. We never require you to send personal information to us via e-mail. We urge you to be just as vigilant when sharing or managing your own information, and offer the following guidelines.
How To Guard Against It
- Remove mail promptly from your mailbox
- Never use your mailbox for outgoing mail containing confidential information. Identity thieves raid mailboxes to steal credit card offers and financial statements.
- Guard your social security number.
- Do not give out personal information like PIN or credit card numbers over the phone or the internet unless you initiated the transaction. Identify thieves often call you posing as an internet provider or credit card company to gain knowledge of your accounts.
- Be very careful with receipts.
- Make sure you have them when you leave the store or ATM and do not throw them into a public trash can. Thieves use these receipts to access your accounts.
- Review your credit report from time to time.
- You can obtain a free credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies- Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.
- Online: at: http://www.annualcreditreport.com
- Toll Free at: 877·322-8228
- Destroy pre-approval credit card offers before you throw them out.
- A home shredder is the best thing to use on financial statements, receipts and old credit cards that you are discarding.
- Account for all new checkbooks when you receive them in the mail.
- If any are missing, report stolen checks immediately. Keep new and cancelled checks in a safe place.
- Block your ATM transaction with your body.
- Keep the keyboard from view and prevent someone from learning your personal identification number (PIN).
- Commit all passwords and personal identification numbers to memory.
- The less you have on paper the less likely it is that someone will learn these numbers.
- Be creative when you select a password.
- Don't be obvious like using the last four digits of your social security number, phone number, address, birth date or any format that could easily be decoded by thieves.
- When conducting a transaction on the internet, make sure the websites you visit are secure and reputable.
- Beware of any email that links you to a website asking for personal or financial information. Never provide your pin number in an internet or phone transaction or as a way of identifying who you are.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
- Contact your credit card company and your financial institution and close your accounts. The FBI suggests that you put passwords (not your mother's maiden name) on any new accounts you open.
- Call one of the three major credit bureaus (numbers shown below) to tell them your identity has been stolen. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
- EQUIFAX: 800-525-6285
- EXPERlAN: 888-397-3742
- TRANS UNION: 800-680-7289
- Call the Social Security Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) theft hotline: 1-877-438-4338
- File a report with the police and be sure to get a copy of the report in case you need proof of the crime later for credit card companies etc.
- If your checks are used fraudulently:
- CHEXSYSTEMS: 800-428-9623
- EQUIFAX: 800-437-5120
- NATIONAL PROCESSING COMPANY: 800-526-5380
- SCAN: 800-526-5380
- TELECHECK: 800-710-9898