Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and mother's maiden name, in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victims financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, renting apartments, and establishing services with utility and phone companies.
How does Identity Theft occur?
- Theft of purse or wallet containing ID, credit and bank cards
- Theft of mail, especially bank and credit card statements and pre-approved credit applications
- Change of address forms that can be completed by a thief with your information
- Personal data retrieved from trash cans
- Personal information that is either bought or stolen from inside sources, such as the internet.
What to do if you become a victim of identity theft
- Contact all creditors by phone and writing informing them of the problem
- Set up a folder to keep a detailed history of the crime
- Notify the US Postal Inspector if you mail has been stolen or tampered with:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the problem:
- www.ftc.gov - The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. The FTC helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identity theft.
- Identity theft hotline: 1-877-IDTHEFT
- Contact each of the three credit bureaus' fraud units to report identity theft:
- Request that a copy of your credit report be sent to you.
- Contact the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271
- Contact the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles at 1-866-658-5758 to see if another license has been issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out a DMV complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process.
- Obtain a description of the suspect if known.
- Obtain witness information if any.
- Determine the financial loss to you and attach all supporting documentation.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Do not leave in unsecured mail receptacles.
- Never give personal information over the telephone (social security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name, credit card number, or bank PIN) unless you initiated the call. Protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don't want before discarding them.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus quarterly to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gasoline pumps. Keep track of your paperwork, and destroy it when it is no longer needed.
- Shield your hand when punching in your PIN number
- Memorize social security number and important passwords. Do not record them on any cards or anything in your wallet or purse.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt
- Save all credit card receipts in a secure place and match them against your monthly bills
- Notify credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number
- Never loan credit cards to anyone
- Never put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard or the outside of an envelope
- If you applied for a credit card and it hasn't arrived in a timely manner, contact the bank or credit card company involved
- Report all lost and stolen credit cards immediately
- Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card issuer if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration dates
- Beware of mail, telephone, or internet solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards that require personal information to be disclosed
Internet Privacy Issues
- Use caution when disclosing any personal information at any website or online service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider
- When you subscribe to an online service, you may be asked to give credit card information. When you enter any interactive service site, beware of con artists who may ask you to "confirm" your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or the credit card account number used to subscribe. Don't give them out.
Other informational web sites
International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (Go to "links" section)
There are many things you can do to stay safe.
by Lieutenant Ed Crosby