How to Guard Against Identity Theft
The Hendersonville Police Department wants to help you guard against identity theft.
Government officials say that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation. Last year alone it affected over 400,000 people. The average financial loss to an identity fraud victim is estimated at $36,000.
Thieves obtain personal information such as social security numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers, and even birth certificates and passports. Accounts are then opened in the victim's name for credit cards and loans with the mail diverted to a different address.
With this approach, it could take months or years to learn that you are a victim. Pay attention to the tips below.
Promptly Remove Mail From Your Mailbox
Never use your mailbox for outgoing mail. Identity thieves raid mailboxes to steal credit card offers and financial statements.
Guard Your Social Security Number
Do not give out personal information like PIN or credit card numbers over the phone or the internet unless you initiated the transaction. Identity 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 have them when you leave the store or ATM and do not throw them into a public trash can. Thieves use these receipts to access your accounts.
Review Your Credit Report From Time To Time
Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you request it. www.annualcreditreport.com is the official site to get the free reports.
Equifax 800-685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian 888-397-3742 www.experian.com
Trans Union 800-888-4213 www.tuc.com
Destroy Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Before You Throw Them Out
A home shredder is the best thing to use on financial statements, receipts, and old cancelled checks that you are discarding.
Account For All New Check Books When You Receive Them In The Mail
If any are missing, report stolen checks immediately.
Block Your ATM Transactions With Your Body
Keep the keyboard from view and prevent someone from learning your personal identification number. (PIN)
Commit All Passwords And Personal Identification Numbers To Memory
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 be obvious like using the last four digits of your social security number, phone number, address, birth date, or any format that could be easily decoded by thieves.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
1. Immediately contact your credit card company and your financial institution and close your accounts. The FBI suggests that you put passwords (not your mother's maiden name) on any new accounts you open.
2. Call the three major credit bureaus listed above 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.
3. Call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.
4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or by going to their website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
5. File a report with the police. Get a copy of the report in case you need proof of the crime later for credit card companies, etc.
6. If your checks are used fraudulently call:
National Processing Co. 800-526-5380
Facts researched and copyrighted by Tower Financial Marketing and presented to you by Lieutenant Reserve Richard Arell, Hendersonville Police Department