Guard Against Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when thieves obtain and use personal information - such as social security numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, your income, your name, address and phone numbers - to commit fraud or theft.  Surprisingly, many cases of identity theft are committed by someone the victim knows. This is why it is important not to share confidential information, such as passwords, with anyone.

Why Protect Yourself?

Identity theft is a serious crime. Victims may be left with a tainted reputation and credit record, in addition to financial losses.  Working to restore your good name is a complicated task, which can take a great deal of time, particularly if the identity theft goes undetected for an extended period of time. 

How to Protect Yourself

We have strict procedures for protecting and monitoring your information when it is in our care. We never require you to send personal information to us via e-mail. We urge you to be just as vigilant when sharing or managing your own information. 

The good news is that there are many things you can do to make yourself less of a target.  

  • Remove mail promptly from your mailbox.  Never use your mailbox for outgoing mail containing confidential information. Identity thieves raid mailboxes to steal credit card offers and financial statements.
  • Guard your social security number.
  • Do not give out personal information like passwords, PINs, or credit card numbers over the phone or the internet unless you initiated the transaction. Identify thieves often call you posing as an internet provider or credit card company to gain knowledge of your accounts.
  • Be very careful with receipts. Make sure you take your receipts when you leave the store, restaurant, or ATM.  Never throw receipts into a public trash can. Thieves may use these receipts to access your accounts.
  • Review your credit report from time to time. You can obtain a free credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies- Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.

    Online: http://www.annualcreditreport.com
    Toll Free:  (877) 322-8228

  • Shred pre-approved credit card offers before you throw them out.
  • Shred financial statements, receipts and old credit cards that you are discarding.
  • Account for all new checkbooks when you receive them in the mail. Report stolen checks immediately. Keep new and cancelled checks in a safe place.
  • Block your ATM transaction with your body. Keep the keyboard from view to prevent someone from learning your personal identification number (PIN).
  • Memorize all passwords and personal identification numbers.  The less you have on paper, the less likely it is that someone will learn these numbers. 
  • Be creative when you select a password. Don't use obvious things like the last four digits of your social security number, phone number, address, birth date or any format that could easily be decoded by thieves.
  • When conducting a transaction on the internet, make sure the websites you visit are secure and reputable.
  • Beware of any emails with links you to a website asking for personal or financial information. Never provide your pin number for an internet or phone transaction.   

How to tell if you're a Victim

Monitor the balances of your financial accounts; look for unexplained charges or withdrawals.  Review your credit report at least annually; look for accounts which you did not open. Other things that could indicate identity theft include:  failing to receive bills or other mail, which could indicate an address change by the thief; receiving credit cards for which you did not apply; denial of credit for no apparent reason; or receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.

What to do if you're a Victim

Accounts:  Contact your credit card companies and your financial institutions and close your accounts. The FBI suggests that you put passwords (not your mother's maiden name) on any new accounts you open.

Credit Bureaus:  Immediately call one of the three major credit bureaus to tell them your identity has been stolen. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.

EQUIFAX: 800-525-6285

EXPERlAN: 888-397-3742

TRANS UNION: 800-680-7289

Creditors:  Obtain a copy of your current credit report. Review it to identify any accounts that may have been opened or used fraudulently.  Contact all creditors with accounts that have been set up or used fraudulently, by phone immediately, then in writing.  You many obtain one free credit report every 12 months.

Law Enforcement: Report the crime to your local sheriff or police department.  Get a copy of the report in case you need proof of the crime later for credit card companies, etc.

Debt Collector: If a debt collector attempts to require you to pay on fraudulent credit accounts, ask for the name of the company, the name of the person contacting you, phone number and address.  Tell the collector that you are a victim of fraud and are not responsible for the account.  Ask the collector for the name and contact information for the referring credit issuer, the amount of the debt, account number and the dates of the charges.  Ask if they need you to complete their fraud affidavit form or if you can use the Federal Trade Commission form.  Follow up in writing to the debt collector explaining your situation, include the completed fraud affidavit, and ask that they confirm in writing to you.

Stolen Checks: If your checks stolen or used fraudulently, notify your bank immediately.  Put stop payments on any checks that were stolen.  Complete the bank’s fraud affidavit for any fraudulent checks. Close your checking account and obtain new numbers.  Report it to the appropriate check verification companies. 

CHEXSYSTEMS: 800-428-9623

EQUIFAX: 800-437-5120

NATIONAL PROCESSING COMPANY: 800-526-5380

SCAN: 800-526-5380

TELECHECK: 800-710-9898

ATM / Debit Cards:  If your ATM or debit card has been stolen or compromised, report it immediately.

Fraudulent Address Change:   Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the post office or has used the mail to commit fraud.

Social Security Fraud: If you suspect social security number misuse, such as for benefit fraud, call the Social Security Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) theft hotline: 1-877-438-4338

How to tell if you’re a Victim

Monitor the balances of your financial accounts.  Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals.  Other indications could be:  failing to receive bills or other mail signaling an address change by the thief; receiving credit cards for which you did not apply; denial of credit for no apparent reason; or receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.

More information about preventing identity theft is available online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/data/idt.shtm.