The Problem of Identity Theft
Some 500,000 to 700,000 Americans a year are at risk of having their identities stolen, according to government and private sector estimates. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to establish credit, borrow money, charge items or even commit crimes in your name.
While the incidence of Internet identity theft is growing, fraud experts agree that you still are more likely to become a victim of this federal crime by more traditional means, such as improperly discarding credit card or other financial data. Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming an ID theft victim and what to do should you be stung by one of these thieves.
How can you tell your identity is at risk?
- Unexplained charges or withdrawals appear on your bank account or credit card statements.
- Monthly bills or statements suddenly stop arriving.
- You are turned down for a credit request for no apparent reason.
- Your credit report contains information about accounts you didn’t open.
- Credit collectors ask for payment on credit cards or loans that aren’t yours.
- You start getting bills you don’t recognize for goods or services you didn’t buy.
- You receive credit cards for which you did not apply.
Protect your identity
- Never respond to unsolicited requests for your social security number (SSN) or financial data
- Before discarding, shred credit card, ATM receipts and any pre-approved credit offers you have received, but don't plan to use.
- Check all credit card and bank statements for accuracy.
- Avoid easy to figure out access and personal ID (PIN) codes.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report yearly and check it for accuracy.
- Use only secure sites when making online purchases. Secure pages begin with "https."
- Pay for online purchases by credit card to assure you get what you paid for and to limit your liability.
- Safeguard your SSN, and check Earnings and Benefit statements annually for fraudulent use.
If You Become a Victim
If you find you have become a victim of identity theft, immediately take the following actions:
- File a police report.
- Contact your banker.
- Notify all of those with whom you have a financial relationship.
- Tag accounts closed due to fraud, "Closed at consumers request."
- Notify credit bureau fraud units.
- Establish a password for telephone inquiries on credit card accounts.
- Place a fraud alert statement on your credit report.
- Request bi-monthly copies of your credit report until your case is resolved (Free to fraud victims).
- Report check theft to check verification companies.
- Check post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
- Follow-up contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence.
Where to Get Help
CREDIT REPORTING BUREAUS:
Report Fraud: 800-525-6285
Order Credit Report: 800-685-1111
Report Fraud: 888-397-3742
Order Credit Report: 888-397-3742
Trans Union: 800-680-7289
Report Fraud: 800-888-4213
Order Credit Report:
Social Security Administration:
Report Fraud: 800-269-0271
Order Benefits and Earnings Statements: 800-772-1213
REPORTING FRAUDULENT CHECK USE:
Check Rite 800-766-2748
National Processing Co. 800-526-5380
More information about identity theft and how to avoid it can be found at: Federal Trade Commission