Identity theft can happen to you at anytime and chances are if it does, you may not know until it is too late. While identity theft is an ongoing crime in this Country, there are ways you can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim. This section provides such tips and includes information on where to receive free annual credit reports in order to check your credit history.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and mother’s maiden name in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud, which include but are not limited to, taking over the victim’s financial accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and/or social security benefits, renting apartments and establishing services with utility and telephone companies.
How can you reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft?
- Obtain free annual credit reports by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia, 30348-5281, going online at www.annualcreditreport.com or calling toll-free at 1-877-322-8228 in order to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Remove mail from your mailbox promptly.
- Deposit outgoing mail in the post office collection mailbox and do not leave in unsecured mail receptacles.
- Never give out personal information over the telephone such as your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number or bank PIN number code unless you initiated the telephone call.
- Protect your personal information and release personal information only when absolutely necessary.
- Remember to shred pre-approved credit card applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial documents you do not want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit card items and ID’s and keep a list in a separate place of those credit cards you have.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles or unattended gasoline pumps.
- Memorize your social security number and all of your passwords.
- Do not record your social security number or passwords on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
- Sign your credit card upon receipt.
- Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills.
- Be conscious of normal receipts of routine financial statements and contact the sender if they are not received in the mail.
- Notify your credit card companies and your financial institutions in advance of any changes of address or telephone number.
- Never loan your credit cards to anyone else.
- Never put your credit card number or any financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
- Call the bank or credit card company if you applied for a new credit card and it has not arrived in a timely manner.
- Report all lost and stolen credit cards immediately.
- Closely monitor expiration dates on credit cards and contact the credit card issuer if the replacement cards have not been received prior to the expiration dates.
- Beware of mail and telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain personal information or credit card numbers.
- Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal financial data at any Website or online service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.
- Do not give out passwords or credit card numbers when subscribing to an online service.
What should you do if you are a victim of identity theft?
- Contact your local Sheriff or Police Department immediately.
- Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, to inform them of your problem.
- Call your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service office.
- Call each of the credit bureaus’ fraud units to report identity theft and ask to have a “fraud alert/victim impact” statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity.
- Request a change of PIN and a new password.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
- Decide whether you wish to contact a private or consumer advocacy group regarding the identity theft.
- Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline.
- Contact the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles to see if any license was issued in your name.
- Request a new license and file a fraud complaint if any license was issued in your name.
Who can you call if you are a victim of identity theft?
- Equifax Credit Bureau, Fraud
- Experian Information Solutions, Fraud
- TransUnion Credit Bureau, Fraud
- Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service (See federal government telephone listing)
- Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline