Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time, money and ruin your good name.
Deter identity theft by safeguarding your information.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you or write your Social Security number on a check. give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails: instead, type in a web address you know. use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer. Be sure to keep the software up-to-date.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mothers maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements. Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
Inspect your credit report.
- Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it. Visit Annual Credit Report a service created by these companies, to order your free credit reports each year.
- Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly looking for charges you did not make.
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it. Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert. A call to one company is sufficient.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. File a report of criminal identity theft with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.