What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft?
Here is a list of things you can do that can lower risk of information being stolen:
- Check your credit report regularly. The major credit bureaus are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You can get these free reports by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. Consider spacing these out so that you get one every four months.
- Instead of depositing your outgoing mail in your own mailbox, take it to the post office collection mailboxes where items are more secure. Identity thieves can easily steal your mail and use that information against you.
- Never give personal information over the phone, unless call is initiated by you. Make sure household members know not to give out such information.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank windows, or gas pumps. These receipts contain information that Identity thieves can utilize.
- Shred any financial trash, especially credit card offers or cash advance/check offers (If a thief gets one of these applications, they can apply in your name).
- Notify credit card companies and financial agencies in advance of address and phone number changes. Don’t let your mail continue to go to your old address.
- If you applied for a credit card, and it doesn’t arrive promptly, immediately contact the credit card company.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
- Carefully review your credit card bills and bank account statements each month.
- When making online purchases, consider using only one card that you check frequently.
- Beware of any official looking requests to confirm information from businesses or federal entities that you receive via email. These are usually Identity thieves “phishing” for information.
- Use “strong” passwords that aren’t easy to guess. For example, do not use your anniversary, birth dates or other significant dates that a thief could easily discover.
What to do if you fall victim to ID Theft:
If you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of ID theft, there are several crucial steps you must take in order to restore your credit and identity:
STEP 1: Close accounts that you know, or believe to have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Call and speak with someone in security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (not originals) of supporting documents. It is important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Sample letters are available at www.FTC.gov. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
STEP 2: Contact the Credit Bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and place a fraud report on your credit report. This fraud alert will make it difficult for Identity thieves to continue stealing by stopping them from opening new lines of credit.
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241
SECURITYALERT P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790,
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
STEP 3: Contact local police and file a police report. This will help you to validate the authenticity of your claim, so that later, if you need to challenge transactions or notations on your credit report you have some form of proof that you were the victim of theft. Sometimes, local police are unresponsive to reports, in which case, you can also contact your State Attorney General’s Office.
STEP 4: Contact the FTC and file a complaint at: www.FTC.gov
Although, these steps can help mitigate the harm done when your identity is stolen, the most important thing you can do is follow the steps laid out in this article to decrease your risk of having your identity stolen.