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Identity Theft

How to avoid it and how to handle it if it happens to you.  Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information to open credit cards, take out loans, rent apartments, make long distance calls or even to engage in illegal acts. You rarely know that it has happened until damage to your credit has been done. In today’s hi-tech world, most people think identities are most easily stolen over the internet or similar electronic means. However, many low-tech strategies are used by these criminals also.

 

HOW THEY GET INFO:

  • steal wallets and purses. They can contain a wealth of identification and cards.
  • steal your mail, which includes statements, bills, credit offers and tax information.
  • complete and submit “change of address” forms so your mail ends up in their box.
  • rummaging through trash, both homes and businesses.
  • obtain employment or personnel records on you from an “insider”.
  • find personal information in your home, either as a guest or after a break-in.
  • use the internet to gain your information.
  • obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord or employer.
  • HOW THEY USE THE INFO:
    • They open credit card accounts using your name, date of birth
      & social security number.
    • They’ll then run the balance up, not pay the bill and the delinquent
      account is then reported on your credit profile.
    • They’ll have regular or wireless phone service established in your name.
    • They call credit card issuers and request address changes before running up the balances. The bills never reach you; you have no idea this is happening until much later, normally once much damage is done to your credit history.
    • They open checking accounts and write bad checks on those accounts.
    • They counterfeit checks or debit cards and drain your bank accounts.
    • They finance an auto in your name.

    HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A VICTIM:

    • Don’t just cut up unused credit cards, call and cancel them.
    • Only carry one/two credit cards with you, and NEVER carry your Social Security card.
    • Shred all credit card receipts, cancelled checks and all other financial information.
    • Call your credit card carrier if yours has expired and you haven’t gotten a new one.
    • Check credit card statements and report any unauthorized purchases.
    • Have your name removed from lists sold to companies offering pre-approved cards.
    • Never allow a clerk to write your credit card numbers on a check.
    • Don’t give out your Social Security number over the phone or on checks for ID.
    • Install a locked mailbox at your residence.
    • Do not leave outgoing bills in your mail box for the mailman to pick up.
    • Do not have new checks delivered to your home, pick them up at your bank.
    • Put passwords on your credit, bank and phone accounts.

    WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM:

    1. Contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file as well as a victim’s statement requesting contact with you before any new accounts are opened. Also, order copies of your reports from all three in writing, which will be free if you suspect fraudulent activity. Review each to make sure there have been no more accounts opened or any changes made to existing accounts. (see Credit Report Tab)
    2. Contact the creditors on any accounts that have been changed or opened fraudulently. Call, but then always follow-up with a letter. Immediately close those accounts and open new ones with new PIN (personal identification number) numbers.
    3. File a report with your local police or the police where the identity theft took place. Get copies of the report, making it easier for you when dealing with your creditors.

    For more information, logon to www.consumer.gov/idtheft