Internet Safety and Identity Theft
The crime of identity theft is on the rise. By using a variety of methods, criminals steal credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, ATM cards, telephone calling cards and other key pieces of an individual’s identity. They use this information to impersonate their victims, spending as much money as they can in a short period of time before moving on to someone else’s name and account information.
Be Smart. Take these preventative steps.
- Reduce access to your personal data. Minimize the amount of information a thief can steal. Do not carry extra credit cards, your social security card, birth certificate, or passport, except when needed.
- Reduce the amount of personal information that is “out there”. Don’t give too much of your personal identifying information out on social media, and remove your name from marketing lists.
- Sign up – for Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service thru Direct Marketing Association’s (www.the-dma.org) . Have your name and address removed from the phone book and reverse directories.
- New checks – Pick them up at the bank, don’t have them mailed to your home address.
- Paying bills – Don’t leave them at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up. It is best to mail bills at the post office.
- Carefully review – credit card statements, phone bills, including cellular phone bills, for unauthorized use.
- Do not toss pre-approved credit offers in your trash or recycling bin without first tearing them into small pieces or shredding them. Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card receipts, phone bills, and so on.
- Social Security Numbers – Protect your social security number (SSN). Release it only when absolutely necessary (like tax forms, employment records, and banking). The SSN is the key to your credit and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. If a business requests your SSN, ask if it has an alternative number that can be used instead. If the SSN is requested by a government agency, look for the Privacy Act Notice. This will tell you if your SSN is required, what will be done with it, and what happens if you refuse to provide it.
- Passwords and PINS – Don’t use the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, middle name, or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves. Ask your financial institutions for additional authentication when accessing your account. Do not use your mother’s maiden name. Memorize all your passwords. Don’t record them on anything in your wallet or purse.
If You Become A Victim
If you lose your wallet, or believe that your identity has been compromised, follow these steps.
- Report the crime to the police immediately. Give them as much documented evidence as possible and get a copy of your police report. Credit card companies, your bank and the insurance company may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.
- Call all your credit card issuers and get replacement cards with new account numbers.
- Call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion
. Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers (see below for contact information) and ask that your accounts be flagged. Also, add a victim’s statement to your report. Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert will be posted on your account and how you can extend it if necessary.
- Notify your bank(s) of the theft. Cancel your checking/savings accounts and obtain new account numbers.
- If you use an ATM card – Get a new card, account number and password. Don’t use your old password.
- If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently – Report the occurrence to TeleCheck, National Processing Company (NPC) or Equifax.
- Call your telephone, electrical, gas and water utilities. Alert them to the possibility that someone may attempt to open a new service using your identification, also contact your long distance company. You may need to cancel your long-distance calling card
- You may want to change your driver’s license number if someone has been using yours as identification on bad checks. When requesting a new number from the Department of Motor Vehicles, you might be asked to prove that you have been financially damaged by the theft of your driver’s license.
- The nearest office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service might be able to give you advice on removing fraudulent claims from your credit report. Call 800-388-2227. Monitor your credit reports regularly even after your file appears to be clean, sometimes thieves go dormant for a while and then reappear. In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates and names. Send correspondence by certified mail and keep copies of all letters and documents. Provide your police report number to expedite reporting the crime and consider seeking legal counsel, especially if you have difficulty clearing up your credit history or your case is complex and involves a lot of money
Credit Reporting Bureaus
Last updated: 2/2/2021