view of family silhouetted on beach at sunset
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Think of how many times a day you share your personal information. You may write a check at the local grocery store, apply for a credit card, make a call on your cell phone, mail your tax return or buy concert tickets over the Internet.
With each transaction, you share your personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers, your income, your social security number, your name, address and phone number.
In 1998, Congress passed a law-making identity theft a federal crime. The U.S. Secret Service, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigate violations of the Act. Persons accused of identity theft are prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
Consumer complaints about identity theft continue to grow.
Unless you live your life in a bubble, you can’t prevent the stealing of your personal information, but you can minimize the risks of this crime happening to you by following these suggestions:
If your credit card bill doesn’t arrive on time, contact your credit card company. This could be a sign that someone has stolen your account information, changed your address and is making large charges in your name from another location.
Once a year check your credit record with the three major credit bureaus. To order your report, call the following toll-free numbers or visit their websites:
Equifax: 800-685-1111 or https://www.equifax.com/
Experian: 888-397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/
Trans Union: 800-888-4213 or https://www.transunion.com/
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following steps:
Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and request a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and no new credit be granted without your approval.
Close any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened.
File a local police report and get a copy of the report to your bank, credit card company or others that may need proof of the crime.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, it can assist victims by providing information to help resolve problems that can result from identity theft. Should you find yourself a victim of identity theft, you can file a complaint with the FTC by calling toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or visit their website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
Most of us assume that thieves are only interested in the cash in our wallet or purse, when in many cases, they are more interested in access to sensitive information that can be used to steal our identity. Use caution and don’t be the next victim of identity theft or other financial fraud.