Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

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Public Safety

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

  • Destroy credit card statements, solicitations and other documents that contain any private information. Shred this paperwork using a "cross-cut" shredder so thieves can't find your data.
  • Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.
  • Secure your mail. Empty your mailbox quickly, lock it or get a P.O. Box so criminals don't have a chance to steal credit card offers. Mail outgoing bill payments, checks and other items from a mailbox, post office or another secure location.
  • Safeguard your Social Security Number (SSN). Avoid carrying your card with you, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Never put your SSN on your checks; your SSN is the primary target for identity thieves because it gives them access to your credit report and bank accounts. Generally, only governmental entities will actually request to physically see your social security card.  
  • Safeguard your computer. Protect your computer from viruses and spies. Use complicated passwords and frequently update antivirus software and spyware. 
  • Know who you're dealing with. Never give personal or financial information either by phone or email to individuals identifying themselves as banks, credit card or e-commerce companies that you don't know.
  • Legitimate companies do not contact you and ask you to provide personal data such as PINs, user names and passwords or bank account information over the phone or Internet. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company yourself.  
  • Guard your personal information. Ask questions whenever anyone asks you for personal data. How will the information be used? Why must I provide this data?
  • Ask anyone who does require your Social Security number, for instance, cell phone providers, what their privacy policy is and whether you can arrange for the organization not to share your information with anyone else. 
  • Review your bank and credit card statements carefully. Look for unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Make sure you recognize the merchants, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. 
  • Keep track of your billing dates/cycles and follow up with creditors if you don’t receive bills/statements on time.
  • Use random letters and numbers for passwords; don’t use your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your graduation date, your social security number or any other familiar letters or numbers that can be associated with you as passwords.

If your identity is stolen

Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them that you're an identity theft victim. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, along with a victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.

1. Equifax To report fraud: 1-800-525-6285 (P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241),

2. Experian To report fraud: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) (P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013), and

3. TransUnion To report fraud: 1-800-680-7289 (Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634)

Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security/fraud department of each creditor, and follow up with a letter.

If your Social Security number has been used illegally, contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

File a report with Public Safety or the Police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the police report in case the bank, credit-card company, or others need proof of the crime.

Keep records of everything involved in your efforts to clear up fraud, including copies of written correspondence and records of telephone calls.     

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