ID Theft Prevention
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the utilization of another's personal information for fraudulent purposes. More often than not, personal information is obtained illegally and without the identity theft victim's knowledge. A common example is when an identity thief uses someone else's personal information to open a credit card account in the identity theft victim's name.
How identity thieves get information
Identity thieves get smarter and smarter regarding ways to steal ID information. The following are commonplace ID theft practices:
- Stolen wallets or purses.
- Stolen mail.
- Residential trash or the trash of local businesses.
- Fraudulently obtained credit reports.
- Business or personal records from their workplace.
- Personal information shared over the internet.
How identity thieves use information
- Open new credit card accounts, make purchases without paying the bills. The delinquent accounts are reported against the victim.
- Change of Address Forms are used to divert mail to a different location so time elapses before unauthorized activity is reported.
- Establish phone or wireless services.
- Open new bank accounts and write fraudulent checks.
- Make large purchases, such as an automobile, by applying for loans.
Consumer education sources
The following websites provide further information for consumers:
How to minimize risk
Before revealing any personal identification information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Don't divulge unnecessary information.
Other protections include:
- Pay attention to billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time.
- Deposit outgoing mail at the post office.
- Limit identifying information and credit cards carried to those necessary.
- Do not give out personal information via phone, mail or over the internet to undisclosed sources.
- Request a copy of your credit report annually from any one of the three major credit bureaus for review.
If you become a victim
If you suspect that someone has been using your personal information, you should contact:
- The fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus
- The creditors of any accounts that have been misused
- The local police to file a report.
- It is wise to cancel existing accounts held in your name and re-open new accounts with new passwords.
Protect Yourself Against Phishing
A new internet threat literally "fishes" for your personal information through bogus e-mails and web sites. Phishing is internet piracy that seeks to obtain account numbers, passwords, social security information and other confidential information in order to loot your checking account or charge items on your credit cards.
How it Works
You might receive an e-mail that seems to come from a respected business, even one you have a relationship with, or a government agency.
It might warn you of a problem that you must attend to immediately using words like, "Immediate Attention Required" or "Contact Us Immediately." In most scams you will be redirected to a fraudulent website where your financial information is stolen. If you provide information at that time you may find yourself a victim of fraud.
- Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request.
- If you are not sure about the caller or e-mail, contact your financial institution directly.
- Never provide critical information over the phone or in response to an unsolicited internet request.
- Double check your account statement.
- Do not be intimidated.
- If you think you are the victim of a fraud, contact your financial institution immediately so that fraud alerts can be placed on your credit file.
- Suspicious e-mails or calls can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
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