Protecting Against Identity Theft

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Identity TheftYour personal identity information may allow an unscrupulous person to open unauthorized charge accounts, or order goods and services and bill them to you without your permission. They may even access your personal or business accounts for withdrawals or purchases, to secure loans, to hide illegal funds, or to remain secluded from law enforcement or gain employment by circumventing criminal background checks. Each of us has personal information worth stealing, and our exposure can be great; however, we can minimize our risk by knowing how to prevent and respond to identity theft.

How can someone get my information?

Your personal identity information is used to process practically every non-cash transaction: ATM machines, bills and receipts thrown in the trash, public records, unsecured mailboxes, stolen pocketbooks, internet transactions, phony notices and requests from governmental agencies, telephone solicitations, and marketing ploys promising prizes, personnel files, obituaries, and medical records, etc. The creativity of the criminal mind can be remarkable.

What personal information do they want?

  • Social Security number
  • birth date
  • driver's license number
  • mother's maiden name
  • bank account or credit/debit card numbers
  • PIN numbers
  • log-on names/I.D.s
  • passwords

How can I prevent people from getting my personal information?

While no one is completely safe from identity theft, there are some simple measures that can be taken to help secure your personal information and guard against identity theft. If someone has stolen your information, catching it early is the key!

  • Instead of signing your credit cards, write "Photo ID Required" on the signature block.
  • If asked to provide a phone number, give your work number instead of your home number.
  • If you pay your bills by check, do NOT write the entire account number on your check – just write the last four digits of your account number. This way, anyone handling your check will not gain access to your account number or be able to connect it with your name.
  • Photocopying both sides of your passport, ID, and all cards in your purse/wallet is a good idea. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Do not keep this in your purse or car. The toll free number to report fraud is on the back of your cards. If they're stolen, a photocopy will help you report fraud sooner.
  • Always shred discarded credit card applications or other items received in the mail. These can contain special information or be submitted without your permission.
  • Install a locked mailbox with a slot.
  • Always instruct your credit card issuers and anyone else you purchase goods or services from that you do not wish them to share or sell your information with/to others.
  • Review your credit reports at least once a year. Please see back panel for credit reporting agency information.
  • Never give personal information to someone over the telephone. Always ask them for a physical location and get the full name of anyone you deal with.
  • Don't place your mail in an open container: take it to the post office or neighborhood mailbox.
  • Remove your name from marketing lists, surveys, etc. See telephone contacts on the back of this brochure.
  • Create a log of all credit and personal information, including credit card numbers, customer service telephone numbers, and credit reporting agency contact information. Keep this information in a locked container for quick access in case of an emergency.
  • Do not pre-print your driver's license number, Social Security number or phone number on your checks.
  • Always check the reputation of any company you do business with on-line. Also look for a contact address located within the continental United States. It is much more difficult to retrieve funds or information transferred out of the country. Be cautious of any business that only has a P.O. Box for an address.
  • Always shred your credit card receipts, ATM receipts and unretained bills. Never throw them away at the point of sale.
  • Check all your billing statements and bank statements for unauthorized charges or withdrawals. If you don't receive a regular statement on time, contact your credit card company or bank immediately.
  • Do not write account numbers on checks or envelopes.
  • If your credit card company sends convenience checks, you may want to request that it stop and shred the unused ones.
  • Conceal your hand when entering PINs of any kind into a public machine or telephone.
  • If you are transacting business over the internet always print out and save the receipt and transaction information.
  • Always make your internet purchases over a secure connection and make purchases by credit card.
  • Never give out your log-on name or password to someone who asks you via e-mail or instant message.
  • Never send your personal information, credit card numbers or account numbers via e-mail or instant message.
  • If any firm uses your Social Security number or other personal number as an account number, ask them to change it.
  • Check Social Security statements for inaccuracies.
  • Do not use your birthdate as your pin number.
  • Ask for information protection policy statements from each business that has your personal information, including your doctors.
  • Do not exchange personal information for prizes. They should be free ... no strings attached.
  • Do not carry a list of PIN numbers in your purse or wallet.
  • REMEMBER if it sounds too good to be true ... it is probably a scam.

What do I do if my information has been stolen?

Please remember never confront a criminal yourself. Contact your local law enforcement agency, give them all the information you have about the person who has stolen your information, and ask them to make a report.

Here are some other things you should do:

  • Get and keep a copy of the police report. You may need it for proof of the crime.
  • For any credit card information that has been stolen, contact the fraud/security department of the creditor or financial institution and close that account.
  • If your pocketbook or checks are stolen, notify the Social Security Administration, local law enforcement agency, credit card companies, and your bank.
  • Contact all three credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your credit. You should do this by telephone as soon as possible and then follow up in writing. You may wish to send them an ID theft affidavit and copies of the police report. (Contact our office for a copy of this affidavit.) Make sure written communication is sent certified mail.
  • Send only copies of documents you have to the institutions you are contacting, unless an original is specifically required. Keep your originals in a safe place.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission, which keeps a database of identity thefts.
  • If you do have to clean up fraudulent accounts on your credit, make sure that all communication is done in writing and sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Keep a close eye on your bank account. There is a time limit for disputing fraudulent checks or withdrawals.
  • Finally, keep a detailed log of all your contacts with authorities and financial institutions.

Contact These Institutions

Here is a list of contact information and resources you may wish to use:

Social Security Administration:
Fraud Report: 800-269-0271
Order Statement: 800-772-1213

Federal Trade Commission:
Oversees the credit bureaus and maintains a database of identity thefts.
You may also obtain a copy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

U.S. Postal Service:
Investigates mail fraud.
Postal Inspector: 800-275-8777

Consumer Organizations
Privacy Rights Clearing house
1717 Kettner Ave., Ste. 105
San Diego, CA 2101

Internet Fraud Complaint Center