Identity Theft Prevention

  
     

Frequently Asked Questions

What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another’s identity for financial gain, to commit crimes or for other unlawful purposes.

How do identity thieves acquire personal information?
Unsecured documents are stolen from personal property, such as computers, homes, mailboxes, trash cans and vehicles, making many consumers an easy target for identity theft. Identity thieves will use any information they can acquire: names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, mothers’ maiden names, Social Security numbers (SSN), credit card numbers or bank account numbers, and passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN).

Thieves target the following items:

  • Social Security cards
  • ID Cards or driver’s licenses
  • Bank cards, checkbooks, bank statements and account numbers
  • Wallets or purses
  • Mail and junk mail


Using the victim’s identity, the thief can:

  • Drain the victim’s bank account
  • Change victim's address or contact information on accounts
  • Use the victim’s credit cards
  • Open new credit cards and financial accounts
  • Apply for a job, loans or financing
  • Rent an apartment or buy a car
  • Set up phone service or other utilities
  • Commit crimes under the victim’s identity


How do most find out their identity has been stolen?
The victim of identity theft is typically the first to realize their identity is in another's hands. Red flags include:

  • Being turned down for credit
  • Being contacted by a collection agency or unknown creditors demanding payment.
  • Credit charges on statements that were never made
  • Contacted by police about a crime you didn’t commit



Safe Measure Tips

Identity theft reports are on the rise; it is important for consumers to take precautions to secure personal information.

Social Security Number (SSN): Be careful about sharing your SSN. Ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse. Do not carry your Social Security card with you on a daily basis. Leave it at home in a secure location.

Passwords: Always select a unique password; avoid using your name, birth date, or the last four digits of your SSN, or any easy sequence of numbers – such as 1122. Do not carry these numbers in your wallet, purse, cell phone or PDA.

Mailbox: Place outgoing mail in a secure mailbox. If you do not have a locked mailbox, pick up incoming mail as soon as possible.

Storage: Never store your private documents in unsecured locations, such as your car or office. At home, invest in a fireproof lock box or safe to store important documents.

Shred Documents: Avoid storing documents that contain personal information you no longer need including: credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and other billing statements. Shred all unnecessary documents that contain personal information; garbage cans are goldmines for identity thieves.

Receipts and Bank Statements: Monitor bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Know what dates your bills arrive. Late or missing bills can indicate your information has been compromised.

Credit and Debit Cards: Sign and write “check photo ID” on new credit cards as soon as you receive them. Do not carry more than needed. Cut up expired credit and debit cards. Report lost, missing and stolen cards to the issuer immediately.

Credit Report: Check your credit report annually. Under the Fair & Accurate Credit Transaction Act, consumers are entitled to a free annual credit report. The only authorized source is AnnualCreditReport.com (1-877-322-8228).

Online Security: A few quick steps can keep your information safe when surfing the Web:

  • Enter information only on secured Web sites. Find "https" in the address – the "s" lets you know it is a secure site
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails or center information on unknown sites
  • Use your credit card, you can dispute fraudulent charges with the issuer
  • If you are a regular online shopper, consider having a separate account for online purchases.



Identity Theft Resources

Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Stop Think Connect
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ)
Social Security Administration (SSA)
U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)