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Identity Theft

Identity Theft

 

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, affecting approximately 500,000 new victims each year.

How Identity Theft is Committed

  • “shoulder surfing” – watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your Personal ID (PIN) or credit card number.
  • ”Dumpster diving” – going through your garbage or commercial dumpsters – to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements or other records that may bear your name, address or telephone number.
  • Steal your wallet or purse.
  • Criminals may pilfer bank statements, credit card statements, pre-approved credit card applications, etc., from your mailbox.
  • “Trickery” using the internet or a phone call to solicit from you your personal information by alleging you have received an award, your order was successful or has been shipped but needs additional verification, etc….
  • Once obtaining your personal information, Criminals may open up a new credit card account, cellular phone service, open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.

Protecting Your Identity

  • If you have received applications for “pre-approved” credit cards in the mail and choose not to use them, then make sure they are discarded by tearing up the enclosed materials.
  • Limit the amount of confidential or personal information you carry in your wallet or purse.
  • Avoid carrying more blank checks than you actually need. Do not have your Social Security number pre-printed on your checks.
  • Keep good backup information about your accounts, in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
  • When you go on vacation, take along a list of toll-free telephone numbers for your banking and credit card companies – not your card numbers – and keep the list in a safe place other than your wallet or purse.
  • Consider canceling any credit cards you don’t need or haven’t used recently.
  • Never respond to unsolicited requests for your social security number (SSN) or financial data.
  • Shred credit card applications you receive in the mail and don’t use.
  • Check all credit card and bank statements for accuracy.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report yearly and check it for accuracy.
  • Be careful at ATM’s. “Shoulder Surfers” can obtain your “PIN” and get access to your accounts.
  • Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. It is easy for someone to change the name of the recipient on the check with an acid wash.
  • Obtain a post office box, or locked mailbox, if you can.
  • Do not put your telephone number on your checks.
  • Consider an unlisted telephone number or just use an initial instead of full first name in the directory.
  • Obtain credit cards and business cards with your picture on them, if possible.
  • If someone you don’t know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a “major” credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data –such as your Social Security number, credit card number, or mother’s maiden name – ask them to send you a written application form. If they won’t do it, tell them you are not interested and hang up.
  • When you are traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask a neighbor you know well and trust to collect and hold your mail while you are away.
  • When you expect a new or replacement credit card in the mail, and it does not arrive, call the card company to see if it was sent. Also make certain no one filed a change of address.
  • If your monthly credit card or bank statements do not arrive at the normal time of the month, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask why. Again, make certain no one filed a change of address.
 
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