Identity Theft - What to Do
Identify theft involves the use of a person's social security number, date of birth and identifiable information to obtain credit or others services under the assumed identity. Although not related to Check Card Fraud, you should be aware of what to do in case you are the victim of Identity Theft.
Identity thieves are creating new ways of obtaining personal information every day – be on your guard in every aspect of your life. If you have questions about any transaction please call us. The number one way to avoid identity theft? Hit delete.
Billions of e-mails are hitting computers each day. Many look legitimate or even threatening – don’t engage, don’t reply – forward to the anti-spam/anti-phishing site provided by your Internet provider
- Be sure you are on the no-call list for your home and cell phone. To sign up visit www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
- Be aware that although political and charitable organizations are exempt from the no-call list there are people who pose as charities or political parties – always check the legitimacy of any caller.
- Check your credit report via www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you do not have access to the Internet call 1-877-322-8228. We recommend making three separate requests during the year (one request per year from each credit reporting agency is free) so there is more opportunity to monitor activity on your report. Check your credit report BEFORE making a big purchase like a house or car so you can clear up any problems before applying for credit. To report fraud contact one of the big three credit reporting agencies and a fraud alert will be forwarded to the other agencies:
Equifax — www.equifax.com
To report fraud, call: 1-888-766-0008
TDD 1-800-255-0056 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian — www.experian.com
To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TDD 1-800-972-0322 and write:
P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013
TransUnion — www.transunion.com
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289
TDD 10877-553-7803; fax: 714-447-6034;email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write: Fraud Victim Assistance Department, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634-6790
- Consider putting a security freeze on your credit report if you do not anticipate applying for credit in the near future, or at all. Notify all three credit reporting agencies in writing. The first freeze is free, subsequent removal or having a freeze installed again will require a $10 fee.
- Monitor bills and credit card activity carefully each month. Report any discrepancies immediately. You have 60 days to report a discrepancy once an erroneous charge appears on your bill.
- Make sure there are no identifying numbers or personal information on receipts and make sure only the last four numbers of your credit card appear on any credit receipt.
- When applying for credit make sure you know how the business disposes of all personal information – business dumpsters are favorite targets of identity thieves.
COMPUTERS / INTERNET
- Do not respond to any e-mail that purports to be from an agency needing your personal information (credit card company, e-bay, bank look-alike, etc.). Look-alike sites may tell you your information has been compromised, they need more information, or need to update information.
- Do not engage by replying to bogus e-mails, and do not click on any message that suggests you “unsubscribe.” A reply may give hackers access to your information or allow a virus to contaminate your computer.
- E-mails may pretend to be from familiar agencies or may say they are from such organizations as the IRS, FBI, or Homeland Security. They may threaten to ruin your credit for an unpaid bill, or issue penalties for not paying taxes – don’t fall for any of these scams – they are all “phishing” for your financial information. Hit delete, or forward to your anti-spam/anti-phishing site.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you initiate the contact and are certain you are dealing with a secure site. Be aware of scams directing people to look-alike sites that attempt to “pharm” your personal information.
- Report Internet fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
- When purchasing items on the Internet check out the seller thoroughly and don’t buy more than you can afford to lose. It is difficult for law enforcement to assist in recovering your money when it is across state lines. Phony cashier’s checks appear frequently in Internet purchases – be careful, and use secure payment options available.
- Deal with locked/encrypted sites only (https) (look for the padlock) when transacting business on the computer. Be aware that con artists are “pharming” private information off the Internet by directing consumers to look-alike sites that mimic legitimate companies.
- Social Networking Sites: Educate your children so they aren’t giving any personal information in chat rooms as they are often the province of predators. Adult chat rooms and Internet dating sites are also being used by thieves posing as love interests in need of transportation, operations, money or other handouts.
- Update your virus, spy ware, anti-spam and filtering protection software regularly.
- Use a strong password – a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Laptops are targets for thieves so it is especially important to use a strong password on laptops.
- Avoid using an automatic login feature that would allow easy access to any personal information stored on a computer.
- Read web-site privacy policies to learn about the access to and control of personal information.
- Make sure your wireless Internet is protected. Identity thieves cruise neighborhoods looking for open wireless access.
- To opt-out of receiving unsolicited commercial e-mails use the Direct Marketing Association’s on-line form at www.dmachoice.org. This request will be effective for five years.
- Destroy your old computers – use a strong overwrite program or consider physically hammering the hard drive and any disks containing financial information before recycling them or throwing them away. If you are giving them away, use a strong program to overwrite the hard drive.
- When upgrading your computers, consider saving the old one and dedicating it to the Internet – the new one will stay virus and hacker free.
- Do not give to any charity without making sure it is legitimate. Check it out through the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org, the IRS web site at www.irs.gov or call our office.
- Reduce the amount of mail you receive by calling the national credit bureaus’ opt-out line at 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-5-678-688) or visiting their web site at www.optoutprescreen.com. This action will reduce the number of pre-approved credit offers you will receive. There is an option to make this temporary or permanent and we recommend making the option permanent. You will see credit offers diminish after you choose this option.
- Cross-shred all mail and any other information containing personal identification and account numbers (especially the “pre-approved credit” offers).
- Further reduce the amount of mail by writing to the following address:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512
Or visit the web site: www.dmachoice.org - though there is a fee for using the web site.
- If your mailbox is in a vulnerable location, and unlocked, consider renting a post office box.
- Do not put outgoing mail in your personal mailbox unless it is secure. Putting a flag up to alert your carrier to mail also alerts crooks to the fact that mail is available for the taking in that box. Pick up your mail immediately so thieves have less opportunity to steal it.
- Have your mail held when you are on vacation by calling the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or make arrangements through their website at www.usps.gov .
- Thieves use change of address cards to divert mail to another location – get to know your mail carrier.
- Use passwords or photo identification on credit cards and bank accounts – encourage businesses to request photo i.d. with credit card use.
- There have been frequent reports of fraudulent cashier’s checks and money orders (particularly in response to items sold on the Internet). Be especially careful when accepting and depositing this tender – ask for help from your financial institution in determining whether they are counterfeit. Many who offer these fraudulent checks or money orders indicate the check is for an amount greater than the amount requested and ask you to send the difference.
- Thieves will post apartments and houses for rent on the Internet and accept money orders for deposits and rent – when they don’t even own the house. Make sure you are giving any money in person and can verify that the person you are meeting actually manages or owns the property.
- Use caution when using an ATM machine, both for personal safety, and for password surfers who may be trying to see your password. (Phony ATM machines have appeared in the U.S.).
- Make sure PIN numbers are not obvious.
- Have your checks sent to your bank or credit union and pick them up there if your mailbox is in a vulnerable location.
- Make sure you know any contractor working in your home, do not leave anyone alone in your home, and make sure your personal information is secure.
- Do not put your trash out the night before – identity thieves can help themselves.
- Make sure you have secured information from credit cards and licenses (such as photocopying or writing down phone numbers and account numbers) so any loss can be reported immediately.
- Beware of door-to-door solicitations. Never give information or money at the door without researching the magazine salesperson, charitable solicitor, or contractor first. Con artists thrive after disasters in particular. Research any organization prior to giving.
- Don’t fill out surveys – the fine print may hold a surprise obligation such as a subscription, a new long-distance carrier or exemption from no-call lists, etc.
- Make sure you take advantage of the privacy or opt-out policy of every company you deal with - mortgage companies, credit card companies, banks, etc. Ask how each company safeguards and disposes of their information.
- Do not carry your Social Security number with you unless you are going to need it that day. Check your earnings and benefits statements at 1-800-772-1213.
- Do not have identifying markers on your vehicle like a license plate holder that says “John and Mary Smith, Boulder, Colorado.” When you are in a campground in Florida, thieves will know you are not home in Boulder County. The same is true with checks that reveal your address. Consider paying with credit cards and cash when traveling.
- Make sure travel agencies are not using your Social Security number to identify you – use a personal identification number.
- Be certain you have all the pertinent numbers you need for calling your credit card company or bank if your cards or checks are stolen.
- Check your credit card bill thoroughly after a vacation – credit information is stolen frequently when people travel.
- Use caution when giving your credit card to a waiter or merchant – make sure you know where your card is at all times. Waiters use “skimmers” to capture the information off your card and I.D. thieves park outside restaurants and other businesses trying to access financial information if the system is wireless.
- Safeguard wallets and purses; conceal money and important cards in an area inaccessible to pickpockets.
If Identity Theft Happens To You
If the identity theft has seriously and substantially affected you financially, or through criminal impersonation, contact the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the crime was committed.
Report the identity theft immediately to one of the credit reporting agencies and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. The alert will remain on your report for about 90 days unless you choose to extend the alert or ask for a security freeze. If you call one agency, they will forward the fraud alert to the others:
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or www.tuc.com
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
Fill out the ID Theft Affidavit online at the FTC site and send it to each credit reporting agency and to any affected creditors immediately: Call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf.
Close any affected accounts and stop payment on any stolen checks. Consider putting additional layers of security on any accounts that might be vulnerable.
Do not use the same passwords and personal identification numbers that were on the compromised accounts – choose new ones.
Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver’s license has been stolen.
If your checkbook has been stolen notify your financial institution and check approval agencies:
Telecheck, 1-800-710-9898, www.telecheck.com
Certegy, Inc. (previously Equifax Check Systems), 1-800-437-5120
Notify the postal inspector and your carrier if mail is involved.
Call the Social Security fraud hotline 1-800-269-0271 if you believe your Social Security information has been compromised.
If an identity thief has used your personal information to create tax problems call the IRS at 1-877-777-4778, or go to their website at www.irs.gov/advocate
For more information on identity theft prevention log onto the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov.