Protect Your Identity
Criminal cases involving identity theft are growing at an alarming rate. So much so that some of you may have already been a victim. Criminals obtain information regarding your identity by stealing your wallet or purse or you unwittingly give them the information as a result of a fraudulent or a deceptive scheme advanced by them. In addition, criminals have become experts on the computer and the use of the Internet as well as rummage through your trash and garbage to obtain discarded information. Here are some ideas to help prevent identity theft as well as what to do when the theft occurs.
The next time you order checks, have only your initials (instead of your first name) and last name put on them. Do not put your phone number on your checks and, if you use a P.O. Box, list that as your address rather than your residence address.
- DON'T provide your personal information unless you are certain it is required.
- DON'T provide information over the telephone unless you initiated the call and you know to whom you are speaking.
- DON'T feel obligated to fill in every blank on application forms. Find out what information is necessary.
- LOOK for the "lock and key" security symbol when using the Internet.
- CONTACT the Better Business Bureau to confirm whether or not an organization is legitimate before you do business with them.
- REMOVE your name from mailing and telephone lists by calling Opt Out at (888) 567-8688 and by contacting the Direct Market Association.
Make a copy of both sides of all your credit cards, charge cards and your driver's license. Keep the copy in a safe place at home. This will become handy if your wallet or purse is stolen; as you will have quick access to phone numbers of the credit companies who issued you the cards.
Wallet or Purse Theft
If you discover that your wallet or purse was stolen or if you are a victim of identity theft, report the incident to the police immediately. This is the first step towards an investigation and will help show your credit providers that you were diligent. Call the three national credit-reporting agencies immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. This will alert companies checking your credit to the fact that your information was stolen and that they will have to contact you by telephone to authorize any new credit.
Review Your Credit Report
As one final method of prevention, request a copy of your credit report on an annual basis. You are permitted one free credit report per year. Upon receiving the report, review it for any discrepancies, unauthorized credit approvals or bogus applications for credit. If any discrepancies are discovered, notify the credit agency immediately. The telephone numbers for the three major credit agencies and the Social Security Administration Fraud Line are:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian (Formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
- Social Security Administration Fraud Line: 1-800-269-0271