Identity theft or fraud, the taking of a victim’s identity to obtain credit, apply for loans, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy, or obtain a job, is the fastest-growing crime in America, affecting almost half a million new victims each year.
Armed with a computer and key pieces of someone’s identifying information, today’s thieves can steal without ever leaving the comfort of their home. Having information such as your name, address, date of birth, and social security number enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud. The thieves can take over the victim’s financial accounts, open new bank accounts, purchase automobiles, apply for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, and establish services with utility and phone companies. All of this can leave you in a lurch when they don’t pay.
Identity Theft Tips & Action Steps
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or at your local post office.
- Do not leave your mail in an unsecured mailbox.
- Never give personal information, such as social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or bank PIN code over the phone, unless you initiated the phone call.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don’t want before putting them in the trash.
- Remove extra credit cards and IDs from your wallet or purse.
- Cancel the ones you do not use and keep a list of the ones you do.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts at ATM machines, bank counters, trash bins or unattended gasoline pumps.
- Memorize your social security number and all of your passwords and PINs. Do not record them on any cards or anything else in your wallet or purse.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
- Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly statements.
- Be aware of when you would normally receive routine financial statements. Contact the sender if they are not received in the mail.
- Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number.
- Never loan your credit cards to anyone else.
- Never put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
- If you have applied for a new credit card and it hasn’t arrived in a timely manner, call the bank or credit card company.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card company if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration date.
- Beware of mail or phone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.
Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers, or any other personal financial data at any website or on-line service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your internet service provider.
Never respond to “phishing” emails requesting personal information, including passwords. No authentic business or service will request a personal password, or personal information such as social security number.
When you subscribe to an on-line service, you may be asked to give credit card information. When you enter any interactive service site, beware of con artists who may ask you to “confirm” your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or credit card account number used to subscribe. Don’t give them out!
Action Steps for Identity Theft Victims
- Freeze fraudulent accounts. Contact the appropriate creditors, banks, phone companies, and utility companies, and have them freeze the accounts. You’ll probably be liable for some of the fraudulent charges, but different issuers have different policies. Most creditors promptly issue replacement cards with new account numbers. Make sure you inform them in writing, as well. It is helpful if you store the contact information in one convenient place.
- Contact the Golden Police Department at (303) 980-7300, or your local law enforcement agency, to file a report.
- Call each of the three credit bureaus’ fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a “Fraud Alert/Victim Impact” statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
You may also need to contact one or more of the following government bodies, each of which will inform you of the necessary procedures.
If you suspect that someone has changed your address with the post office, or used the mail to commit identity theft, notify the US Postal Inspector.
Fraud Using Your Social Security Number
If your Social Security number has been used to commit identity theft, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. You can order a copy of your earnings and benefits statement to check whether someone has used your Social Security number to get a job or to avoid paying taxes.
Fraud Involving Your Passport
Notify the U.S. State Department’s Passport Services Department of the identity theft so that it can intercept anyone ordering a new passport in your name.
You may also want to contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-438-4338.