DETER, DETECT, and DEFEND
How can someone steal your identity? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit. If you think your identity has been stolen, here's what to do now:
- Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
- File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
- File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps them learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that they can better assist you.
- If your social security card is stolen contact the Social Security Administration. The telephone number is 1-800-772-1213.
- If you need legal assistance, consider a legal services plan.
- For additional information view or download one or more of the following Federal Trade Commission booklets:
|FTC Take Charge Booklet||FTC ID Theft Info Booklet||FTC Military Booklet|
- VISA/Master Card Scam Alert: Should you get a phone call from a VISA or Master Card “employee” trying to confirm unusual spending activity AND that person asks for code on the back of your credit card--- DO NOT give that number out. They will sound very professional but may not be from that company. In the interest of financial security, it is not advised to give the code on the back of your credit card to anyone unless you have initiated the call and it is to a reputable merchant. Contact VISA or Master Card Fraud numbers on your credit card to confirm that they made that call and deal with the situation that way.
- Account verification or "phishing" scams: For several years, individuals have purchased domain names that are similar to those of legitimate companies. These con artists then send out millions of emails asking consumers to verify account information and even SSN. Prior to agreeing to do this, check with the company directly and see if the email originally was sent from them. In almost all cases, you will be told that it is a scam. Common verification scams use: E-Bay, PayPal, Discover Card, and the phone companies. Almost all Internet server names have been used for this scam as well. Other companies that have been known to be victims of this scam include: AOL, Earthlink, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
- Help move money from my country, aka Nigerian Scam: Almost everyone has received an email from a supposed representative of a foreign government asking to help move money from one account to another. This scam still nets $100 million annually so people are falling for it. Nigerian type money offers account for about 12 percent of the scam offers people have said they've received, according to a recent National Consumers League poll. The latest versions of this scam include a dying woman, a soldier, and emails referencing numerous other locations than Nigeria.
- Various Lotteries - "You Have Won"- Unless you entered a lottery or bought a ticket to win a prize, these are scams. They originate from many foreign countries claiming to be national lotteries. There are even variations claiming you have won a prize from a large corporation such as Microsoft.
- Free Credit Report Emails - Almost all of the "free credit report" emails you receive are scams. Either the person is trying to find out your social security number or will be billing you for a service later on. Do your homework and check out the company via the Better Business Bureau, US Attorney and Federal Trade Commission. You don't know who is sending these emails.
Questionnaires: You may get an email card from an "old friend." It may come from a chat room friend. These include questions that help the person sending it find out your birth date, passwords (favorite things) and even may ask for your Social Security Number (SSN). Do not answer these, even with false information. You only let the other party know that they have reached a "live" person and you may eventually give away information you don't realize can hurt you. These people are slick and can easily convince you to divulge information you don't intent do. That is why they are called con artists.
- Job advertisement scams: These are scams involving Internet Job Websites (for instance; Monster.com) and Newspaper Want Ads. Under no circumstances should an applicant provide a SSN to a "HR person" found through a newspaper ad or an Internet ad prior to an actual interview or prior to authenticating both the company and the person asking for the information. If you have any doubts, contact the company directly using a phone number found on the company Website or telephone book. Remember, anyone can set up a Website. You may choose to check the company out with the Better Business Bureau for that area as well as the state attorney general to make sure that they are a legitimate company. Typical tip-offs: Email addresses that do not include a company name in the domain section, mailing addresses or fax addresses in cities that differ from corporate headquarters.
- Telephone scams: Do not provide credit card information or your social security number over the telephone unless you initiated the call and the call is to a known company or agency. Also, no one from the government will be calling consumers asking if they want to be included on the "do not call list" nor will these lists require a consumer to provide a SSN via telephone.
- More Information: For additional information check out the FTC Identity Theft Site.
Identity Protection Tips
- Review all bank and credit card statements for suspicious transactions
- Check your credit reports for free from all 3 credit bureaus. Tip: Check each report at a different time of the year.
- Obtain a copy of your background check from LexisNexis.
- Request a copy of your medical information from MIB.
- Opt Out of pre-screened and pre-approved offer lists sold by the credit bureaus.
- Find out how to remove your name from other mail and email lists at the DMA Consumer Alliance.
- Find out more about your privacy rights.
- Never print your social security number on your checks.
- Buy a shredder and shred all documents with personal information.
- Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Never reply to suspicious email requests or open any suspicious email attachments - When in doubt, DELETE!