As more and more personal information is provided and transmitted electronically, identity theft is becoming a real threat. Identity theft occurs when someone obtains key information, such as your Social Security or driver’s license number, without your permission, and uses it in an unlawful way. A recent study showed that nearly two thirds of Americans have lost confidence in the way their personal information is being handled. The Federal Trade Commission and other organizations have identified specific measures you can take to protect yourself.
- Leave the back of your credit cards blank, or write “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”
- When you pay your monthly credit card bill, DO NOT write your complete account number on your check. Instead, just put the last four digits. The credit card company knows the rest of the number.
- Be stingy about giving out your Social Security number. Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on a check. Give it out only when absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone or on the internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Shred any documents containing personal information before throwing them in the trash.
- Photocopy all the contents of your wallet. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. If your wallet is ever stolen, you will know exactly what was lost and have all your credit card numbers and the phone numbers you need to call to cancel them. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
- Routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements. Look for any unexpected activity.
- Inspect your credit report. Visit http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by the three major consumer reporting companies, to order your free credit reports each year.
- If you suspect identity theft, place a Fraud Alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the major consumer reporting companies:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285.
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Close accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Keep copies of documents and records of conversations about the theft.
- File a police report to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission to help law enforcement.
- Online: http://ftc.gov/idtheft
- By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261