Identity theft isn't a big problem- until it happens to you! Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information such as your name, social security number or your personal financial information to commit fraud against you. It can be very difficult and time consuming to regain your good name and credit rating after being a victim.
How Theft Occurs
- They get information from businesses or other institutions by stealing records or information while they're on the job, hacking records or conning information out of employees.
- They may steal your mail including bank statements, credit card offers, and new unused checks.
- They may steal your wallet or personal information from your home.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using information like your mother's maiden name, etc. Use a combination of letters and numbers that would be difficult to guess.
- Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your home.
- Ask about information security procedures in your workplace or doctor's offices or other institutions that collect your personal identifying information.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through mail, or on the internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know whom you're dealing with.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
- Tear and shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements, etc.
- Only give your social security number when absolutely necessary. Ask: why do you need it? How will it be used? How do you protect it from being stolen?
- Pay with credit card if you can. Most cards offer some protection for the items you buy with them.
- Report lost or stolen checks right away. When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank instead of receiving them in the mail.
- Check your credit report at lease once a year to be sure that all information is correct. Investigate any suspicious activity.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call or email asking for your bank account information, notify your bank immediately.
- Be on the lookout for scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
- Place fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports. This will stop a lender from issuing credit to anyone with your information until you give approval.
- Close accounts you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police or police in the community where the identity theft took place.
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
- IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center and accepts complaints for online crime.
- Federal Trade Commission
- The following are services that could further help protect you from identity theft:
- Consumer Affairs- Guide to Identity Theft Protection