Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing financial crimes in America, accounting for losses in the billions of dollars every year. Following are tips for protecting yourself and advice on what to do if it happens to you:
What is identity theft?
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.
How does identity theft happen?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information: your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses, mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records from their employers or bribe employees who have access.
Identity theft can happen to anyone in a variety of ways.
What you can do to protect yourself:
- Do not open or respond to online solicitations for personal information.
- Carry only necessary identification. Do not carry your Social Security card.
- Do not have your driver's license number or Social Security number printed on your checks.
- Do not carry account passwords with your cards or write them on the cards.
- When a Social Security number is requested to sign up for a service, ask if there is other identifying information that would be acceptable versus a Social Security number.
- Make photocopies of all the information you carry daily and store them in a secure location.
- Shred financial or personal documents before discarding.
- Checking your balances online can help you regularly monitor your account activity and more quickly detect any fraudulent transactions.
- Always put outgoing mail in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox, which is more secure than your home mailbox.
- Collect your mail promptly each day.
- Periodically check your credit bureau report to ensure accuracy.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or http://www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3745 or http://www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or http://www.transunion.com
- To obtain a free credit report: 1-877-322-8228 or http://www.annualcreditreport.com
- Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271
- Call your local police department and file a report. Get a copy of the report in case the bank, a credit card company, or others need it later.
- Notify any one of the three credit reporting bureaus. Tell them to put a fraud alert on your file and ask that no new credit be granted without your approval.
- Change your account numbers for banking, credit cards, and utilities. Put passwords on all new accounts.
ID Theft Resource: http://www.consumer.gov or 1-877-438-4338
If you have any questions or concerns about the protection of your personal financial information, please come in to any of our convenient locations and visit with us.
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