Identity Theft Prevention
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the misuse of another individual's personal information to commit fraud. Today, 1 out of every 10 Americans is a victim of identity theft - many are unsuspecting senior citizens.
Just the Facts
Your personal information that criminals are most interest in:
- Name, Address, Phone number
- Date of Birth
- Social Security number
- Driver's License number
- Credit Card information
- Bank Account information
- Mother's Maiden name
Victims spend from 3 to 5,840 hours repairing damage done by identity theft. This difference is due to the severity of the crime -for example, a lost credit card versus the use of your social security number to become your 'evil twin'. The average number of hours victims spend repairing the damage caused by identity theft is 330 hours.
Do not carry your Social Security Card in your wallet. Only carry what you need. Never carry more than 1 or 2 credit cards. You should keep a list of all your credit cards, bank accounts, and investments in a secure place. Include account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers for customer service departments so you can contact them quickly if necessary.
Just Say "No"
Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls. Unless you have a relationship with the person, business, or agency and you initiated the call and have verified the other party's authenticity, never offer any personal information. This includes your Social Security Number, Credit Card number, and other personal data. To avoid unwanted telephone offers, add your name to the National Do-Not-Call Registry. For more information, visit the National Do-Not-Call Registry website.
A large majority of identity theft is the result of stolen mail or items found in the trash. Shred any solicitations that contain your name, address, or other sensitive data. When away from home for more than a few days - have your mail held the post office. Always shred pre-approved credit card offers. You can remove yourself from these lists by visiting the Opt Out Prescreen website.
Don't Bank On It
Review your credit card statements, bank statements, and phone bills frequently for unauthorized use. Never let merchants write your Social Security number on your checks. Do not print your Social Security number, driver's license number or phone number on your check. A P.O. Box address number is preferable.
Check your Social Security Statement each year for signs of fraud. Cut up expired credit cards before you expose of them. Check your credit reports at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year. Details can be found at the Annual Credit Report site.
What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
Remain calm. Help is available. Here are 5 easy steps:
- Contact the 3 major credit bureaus and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Order copies of your credit reports and review for fraud activity.
- Notify your bank and credit card companies. If your accounts have been compromised, close them immediately and open new ones.
- File a report with your local police department. Request a copy of the report as some creditors will request a report in order to remove the debts created by the theft.
- Keep a record of the names and phone numbers of the people with whom you discuss your case, as well as all the reports and supporting documents.
- Call the identity theft hotline at the Federal Trade Commission at (877) IDTHEFT. The Federal Trade Commission has counselors to help you resolve financial and other problems that can result from this crime.
Tips While You Are Online
Do not provide credit card numbers or personal information on any website unless you are positive it is authentic. Never open spam or other email from unknown sources as it can contain viruses. Change your passwords on a regular basis.