It is also one of the most difficult to detect until it is too late and the damage has been done. The time and energy to correct damaged credit and to re-establish your personal identity is reason enough to take steps to prevent this frustrating crime. The following prevention tips should be considered to protect your identity and to ensure your financial stability.
What Personal Information Should You Protect?
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- Phone Number
- Bank Accounts
- Mothers Maiden Name
- PIN Numbers
- Investment Information
- Credit Cards
- Any Personal Info
How Thieves Steal Your Personal Information
- Mailbox tampering - Do not leave out-going mail (especially paid bills) in your mailbox and collect each days mail promptly. If your neighborhood does not have a “common” mailbox with locking doors, contact your local post office. Also, report any mailbox damage immediately. Thieves will look for bank statements, pre-approved credit applications, utility bills, etc.
- Telemarketing fraud - Do not give out personal information over the phone or over the Internet. Fraudulent callers may pose as government officials, bank and insurance representatives, and/or any other “official” sounding and “concerned” person.
- “Dumpster divers” - Criminals may go through your trash to collect information about your personal situation. You should always shred credit cards and utility bills, including receipts, and any documents that list your personal information prior to disposal.
- Stealing Your Purse or Wallet - Carry only necessary items for a particular trip.
- Stealing Your Credit Report - An identity thief may pose as an employer, loan officer, landlord or realtor to gain access to your credit report.
- ATM Transactions - Be careful when using an ATM machine. Take special care to prohibit any one from seeing your PIN number. Do not write your number down—memorize it.
- New tactics - Criminals will try to stay one step ahead of our prevention techniques. Maintain your diligence and continue to be suspicious of a stranger who takes an interest in you.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- Do not give your credit card or bank account numbers to any one over the phone unless you made the call and know the business.
- Do not give your Social Security number to any one and don't have it printed on your checks.
- Shred all your papers with personal information that is no longer needed, including charge receipts, bank statements, expired credit cards, credit offers prior to disposal, etc.
- Reduce the number of cards you carry and don't carry your Social Security card or number, birth certificate, or passport with you except when necessary.
- Check credit card statements and report unauthorized purchases immediately.
- Be aware of people who are nearby when you use an ATM machine.
- When ordering new checks, do not have them sent to your home. Pick them up at the bank.
- Use a “Gel Pen” to write checks. Gel pens are difficult to wash and therefore cannot be reused if your checkbook is stolen.
- If you are a victim, call the three major credit-reporting agencies and have a Fraud Alert placed in your file. Request a report from each source at least once a year to verify accuracy:
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742 or regionally at 602-528-7785
- Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
- The Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline (1-800-269-0271) and Federal Trade Commission Hotline (1-877-IDTHEFT/438-4338) are also recommended contacts.
APD Crime Prevention (505) 244-6644