Protect Your Identity
Identity TheftIdentity theft is a fast-growing form of fraud. It involves criminals stealing a personís personal information and using it to apply for credit, run up huge bills, stiff creditors and generally wreck the victimís credit record.
Steps to Safeguard Your Identity· Do not give personal information, such as account numbers or social security numbers over the telephone, through the mail, or over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.
· Store personal information in a safe place and tear up old credit card receipts, ATM receipts, old account statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
· Protect your PINs and other passwords. Avoid using easily available information, such as your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, your phone number, etc.
· Carry only the minimum amount of identifying information and number of credit cards that you need.
· Pay attention to billing cycles and statements. Inquire if you do not receive a monthly bill or statement in a timely manner. It may mean that the bill or statement has been diverted by an identity thief. Check with the Postal Service to verify that someone has not forwarded your mail to another address. Contact the bank to verify that the statement, bill or card has been sent.
· Check account statements carefully to ensure all charges, checks, or withdrawals were authorized.
· Guard your mail from theft. If you have the type of mailbox with a flag to signal that the box contains mail, do not leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox with the flag up. Instead, deposit them in a post office collection box or at the local post office. Promptly remove incoming mail.
· Order copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year to ensure that they are accurate. Each of the three national credit-reporting agencies may contain different aspects of your credit history. Contact each of the agencies, or you may receive one free credit report per year from the Annual Credit Report Service.
· If you prefer not to receive preapproved offers of credit, you can opt out of such offers by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT [1-888-567-8688].
· If you want to remove your name from many national direct mail lists, send your name and address to:
DMA Mail Preference Service· If you want to reduce the number of telephone solicitations from many national marketers, send your name, address, and telephone number to:
DMA Telephone Preference Service
Steps to Take If You Become a VictimIf you believe that someone has stolen your identity, you should:
· Contact the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT [1-888-438-4338]. The hotline is staffed by counselors trained to help ID theft victims. The FTC puts the information into a secure consumer fraud database and shares it with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
· Visit the FTC' Identity Theft Assistance website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft. This website contains a special CONSUMERS - TOOLS FOR VICTIMS link to help you. These tools include a CHART YOUR COURSE OF ACTIONS form, which helps you to record the steps you've taken to report the fraudulent use of your identity, an Identity Theft Affidavit to help simplify the process of clearing up accounts opened by an identity thief, an online complaint form that once it has been completed and submitted to the FTC, will be reformatted so that it can be printed and used to support your local police report, along with other forms, references, and resources to help you.
· Contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus to report the identity theft and request that the credit bureaus place a fraud alert and a victimís statement in your file. The fraud alert puts a "flag" on your account telling creditors that you have been the victim of fraud, and the victimís statement asks creditors to contact you in person to verify all applications made in your name. The following are the telephone numbers for the fraud departments of the three national credit bureaus:
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
You may request a free copy of your credit report. Credit bureaus must provide a free copy of your report if you have reason to believe the report is inaccurate because of fraud and you submit a request in writing.
· File a report with your local police department.
· Contact any bank or other creditor where you have an account that you think may be the subject of identity theft. Advise them of the identity theft. Request that they restrict access to your account, change your account password, or close your account.
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