Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, social security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make—or until you're contacted by a debt collector.
While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
- Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways, including credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank and finance fraud and government document fraud.
Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft
The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to monitor your credit and bank statements each month, and obtain and review your credit report on a regular basis. If you take these steps, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
- File a police report with the local police;
- File an FTC Theft Complaint;
- Obtain a new copy of your credit report and reviewing it for accounts you did not open;
- Notify the credit reporting agency of unauthorized transactions;
- Dispute unauthorized accounts and transactions as soon as possible;
- Place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report.
- For complete information on these steps, go to the identity theft section on the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov.
There are several recommended actions to take if you discover that your identity has been stolen. These include:
Fighting Identity Theft
Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms identity theft. Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.
Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community.
This information was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission website, which is the best resource for information on identity theft.
For more information on identity theft, including how to obtain a free credit report and how to file an FTC Theft Complaint, go to the identity theft section at www.ftc.gov.
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- ATM access
- Debit Card
- Cashier's Checks
- Wire Transfers
- Foreign Drafts and Transfers
- Rolled Coins
- Online Banking
- Direct Deposit
- Safe Deposit Boxes
- Telephone Transfers