No matter how cautious you are, you cannot guarantee that a criminal will not obtain your information. The following steps will help you identify the warning signs, show you how to protect yourself, and what to do if you become a victim of identity theft.
Often there are no warning signs that identify that a theft has occurred. However, some reasons for concern are:
You suddenly stop receiving your monthly bank and credit card statements.
You're denied credit for no apparent reason.
You start receiving statements from companies that you don't recognize.
Credit collection agencies try to collect on debts that don't belong to you.
The above referenced concerns are not all inclusive.
How To Protect Yourself - Personal Information
Familiarize yourself with your bank's, doctor's office, other businesses you do business with, and your employer's privacy policies, and ask them how they safeguard your personal information.
Never carry your social security card, social security number, birth certificate, or passport on your person, unless it's absolutely necessary.
Do not put your address, telephone number and/or driver's license number on a credit card sales receipt.
Social security or telephone numbers should not be printed on checks.
Identifying information should never be given over the phone or the internet to someone you do not know or on a cellular or cordless phone (think old party lines).
Shred all personal documents before placing them in the trash, including an pre-approved credit card offers. You may opt-out from receiving these unsolicited credit card offers by calling
1-888-5 OPT OUT.
If your state uses your social Social Security number as your driver's license number, request another number.
How To Protect Yourself - Financial Information
Obtain a copy of your credit report each year.
Keep your financial records out of sight. Burglars are just as interested in your credit cards, bank accounts, and other investment statements as they're in your TV, jewelry, and other valuables.
Scan over your monthly statements for debits, and charges that you didn't make. If your monthly statements don't arrive in the mail, call the company or institution immediately.
Keep a list of all bank accounts, and credit cards, including account numbers, phone numbers, and expiration dates.
When making an online purchase, make sure that it's processed over a secured server.
If you have a credit card(s) that you no longer use, store them in a safe place, or better yet, cancel the account(s) altogether. Be sure to cut them up, and dispose of them properly.
Carry only credit cards that you plan to use.
If you've recently a[p[lied for a new credit card, be sure to keep an eye out for the mail. If the card doesn't arrive within the appropriate timeframe, call the credit card company.
When asked to setup a password for the account, do not use your mother's maiden name.
Unless your mailbox is secure, consider a post office box instead.
What To Do If You Have Become A Victim
Despite your best efforts to protect yourself, you've become a victim. Now what? Take the following steps immediately to insure your protection.
Throughout the resolution process, be sure to keep records of all correspondence with the creditors and government agencies you contact, including the name and number of the individual(s) you talked to, as well as the date you called.
Notify all creditors and financial institutions in writing and by phone, that your name and your accounts have been used without your permission. If an existing account has been stolen, ask the creditor(s) or bank(s) to issue you a new card(s), checks and account numbers. Monitor all account activity on your statements. Report fraudulent activity immediately.
Local Law Enforcement
File a criminal report with to your local police. Provide them with as much documentation as possible. Make sure that all accounts are listed on the police report. Be sure to obtain a police report for your records. Financial institutions and credit card companies may require that you provide them with a copy of the police report to support your claim.
Federal Law Enforcement
Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC provides information on ways to resolve problems resulting from identity theft and refers individuals to various private and government agencies.
Credit Reporting Agencies
Contact the fraud unit of each of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Have them place an alert on your credit report to help prevent new fraudulent accounts form being opened. Fraud alerts expire, so be sure to ask when it will expire, and make a note in your records so that you may renew it at that time.
Lastly, as a victim, you're entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Click on the URL below, or cut and paste the URL to your browser. Order yours today!