Identity theft is an ever growing problem throughout the country and anyone can fall victim to this crime. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Here are a few tips to help protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim along with helpful information should this happen to you!
- The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your check book they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.
- When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “For” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won’t have access to it.
- Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks.
- Make photocopies of all important personal items in your wallet (be sure to copy both sides of each license, credit cards, etc.). You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
- When traveling abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport.
- Use a cross-cut shredder when you are disposing of any documents that contain personal information.
- Do not leave mail in your mailbox – bring it in daily and be sure to stop your mail or have a friend collect it for you while you are away from home.
- Do not carry your social security card or birth certificate.
- Cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.
- Double Check your financial statements to ensure all the charges/debits are yours.
- Never disclose personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone even if they say that they are from a bank. Inform them that you will call them back, and then use the phone number that you have (i.e. from your statement or back of the credit card). This ensures that you are contacting the bank and not an unauthorized person.
- Be sure to sign all credit card/debit card when you receive them.
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen.
- Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
- Residents can also check their credit reports to be sure that they are aware of all accounts that are under their name. By visiting www.annualcreditreport.com someone can get their credit report from the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies. These reports may be reviewed every 12 months for free.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 www.equifax.com
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742 www.experian.com
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289 www.transunion.com
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271 www.ssa.gov
For more information about Identity Theft you can visit the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) at www.ftc.gov.