Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information, and it can cause serious disruption to your finances and credit history.
Follow These Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft:
- Safeguard your social security number, PINs, and account numbers
- Properly dispose of personal information - both on paper and electronically
- Do not share any personal information unless you’re sure with whom you are dealing with
- Carefully monitor your banking and credit card statements
- Monitor your credit reports from all 3 major credit bureaus - Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian - each year by ordering them from each bureau or by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
- Consider freezing your credit. This safeguards your credit reports from any new credit and is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity theft. You will need to contact each individual credit bureaus to freeze and thaw your credit.
How Thieves Get Your Personal Information:
- Stealing your wallet or purse
- Shoulder surfing – watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your PIN codes or listening as you give someone else your personal information over the phone
- Stealing you mail – including statement credit offers, and tax information
- Going through trash at your home or business
- Obtaining your credit report by posing as someone who has a legitimate right to the information
- Pre-texting – using false pretenses to obtain your personal information from banks, telephone, or credit companies
- Skimming – using a special storage device to scan and remember your credit and debit card numbers when you use your cards
- Phishing – pretending to be a financial institution or other company (like a lotto company) and sending you scam or pop-up advertisements to persuade you to reveal your personal information
- Changing your address – completing a change of address form to divert your billing statements and other mail to another location where this information is easily accessible.
A thief can strike even if you are very careful.
The Following Three Actions are Appropriate in Most Cases if you do Fall Victim of Identity Theft:
- File a report with your local law enforcement agency in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card companies, or others request a copy.
- Contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus. Request that a “fraud alert” is placed on your file, as well as a statement asking creditors to call before opening any new accounts. Also, order copies of your credit reports. Review your reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies opening fraudulent accounts. You also need to make sure there is no new fraudulent activity.
- Contact your creditors about tampered with or fraudulently opened accounts. Speak with someone in the fraud department of each creditor, and follow up with a letter. Keeping a copy of the letter for your records. Immediately close any tampered with accounts and open new accounts with a new PIN and password.