About Identity Theft
Identity theft is so prevalent because your information is out there. Every credit card, loan, or credit line you have ever applied for, every college you’ve attended, every job you’ve had, every magazine you have subscribed to may have your account names and personal information; countless databases that can be compromised. The FTC reports 9.9 million identities stolen in 2003.
How identity thieves GET your personal information
- They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
- They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, check orders, telephone calling cards, cards or checks that advance funds on established lines of credit, and tax information.
- They complete a "change of address" form to divert your mail to another location.
- They fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legitimate need for – and legal right to – the information.
- They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
How identity thieves USE your personal information
- They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there’s a problem.
- They open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Then, when they use the credit card and don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
- They establish phone or wireless service in your name.
- They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks or establish loans on that account.
- They file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
- They counterfeit checks or check cards, and drain your bank account.
Prevent Identity Theft
There are some simple things you can do to help protect yourself:
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, by e-mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact. It is rare for reputable companies to request this information and it should be a signal to you to be cautious. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of financial institutions, Internet service providers, and even government agencies to get you to reveal your Social Security Number, financial account numbers, and other identifying information. If you are asked to provide personal information by phone, hang up and call the organization back at the main number as listed in the phone book.
- Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered. And, if you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail, contact the U.S. Postal Service to request a vacation hold.
- Use care when disposing of items containing personal information. Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.
- Check your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. With the new Fact Act, you are allowed one free credit report each year by each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Click here for more information to obtain your free credit report.
- Sign up for online banking and e-statements. Research shows that consumers who regularly monitor accounts, can identify suspicious activity quicker than those who only monitor bank accounts through monthly or quarterly paper statements. Log on to netbr@nch to sign up for online banking and e-statements.
- Visit http://www.balancepro.net/idtheft/ for more information on safeguarding your personal information.
If Identity Theft Has Occurred.
Three basic steps need to be taken immediately:
- Contact the fraud departments at each of the three major credit bureaus.
Let them know you’re an identity theft victim, and request that a "fraud alert"
be placed in your file – as well as a statement asking that creditors contact
you before opening any new accounts or changing existing accounts.
To report fraud to the credit bureaus, call:
• Experian- 1-888-397-3742
• Transunion- 1-800-680-7289
• Equifax- 1-800-525-6285
- Contact your creditors for the accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened. This can include credit card companies, phone and utility companies, banks, and other financial institutions. Close accounts with fraudulent activity, and open new ones with new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords.
- File a report with your local police – or the police where the identity theft took place. Make sure to get and keep a copy of the report in case your creditors need proof of the crime.
Helpful websites for Identity Theft information