What is identity theft?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and mother’s maiden name in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victim’s financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, renting apartments, and establishing services with utility and phone companies.
What to do if you become a victim:
- Report it to law enforcement and set up a folder to keep a detailed history of this crime.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
- Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing to inform them of the problem.
- Close bank accounts.
- Contact all government agencies that issued identification (driver’s license, etc.) and follow the procedures to cancel the document or get a replacement. Ask the agency to “flag” your file so no one else can get a license or any other identification document from them in your name.
- Notify the U.S. Postal Inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with.
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Local Post Office (See phone listing under Federal Government.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem:
- www.ftc.gov – The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identify theft. The FTC helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identify theft. Their hotline number is 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).
- Call each of the three credit bureaus’ fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a “Fraud Alert” placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- To order a free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com call toll-free 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or at your post office. Do not leave in unsecured mail receptacles.
- Never give personal information over the telephone, such as your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, or bank PIN code, unless you initiated the phone call. Protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit receipts, bills and other financial information you don’t want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and IDs, or better yet, cancel the ones you do not use and maintain a list of the ones you do.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gasoline pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork. When you no longer need it, destroy it.
- Memorize your social security number and all of your passwords. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
- Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills.
- Be conscious of normal receipt of routine financial statements. Contact the sender if they are not received in the mail.
- Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number.