About Identity Theft

Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission now for 13 years running. The FTC's annual look at its Consumer Sentinel Network database of complaints found that the agency received more than 2 million complaints overall in calendar year 2013, with 14% related to identity theft.

The average loss from the misuse of a victim's personal information is more than $4,900.

 

How does it happen?

 

  • Identity thieves may steal mail (such as account statements, new checks and credit offers) from mailboxes, trash, or even out of your home or office.

  • Identity thieves may take credit card and personal identification from your purse or wallet.

  • Identity thieves may trick you into divulging personal information through phony websites or scam e-mails, often posing as your bank or Credit Card Company.

    • Spoofers  - Create a replica of an existing Web page to fool a user into submitting personal, financial, or password data.

    • Spammers – Send unsolicited e-mail indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals, or newsgroups. These e-mails include advertisements, viruses, and hoaxes.

    • Phishers – Create and use e-mails and Web sites which are designed to look like those of well-known legitimate businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies – to deceive users into disclosing financial institution and account information or other personal data such as usernames and passwords.

 

How can I avoid becoming a victim?

 

  • Completely destroy or shred all papers with personal information before throwing them out.

  • Be careful who you give your information to over the phone, and only give your SSN if absolutely necessary. Try using other identifiers such as a driver’s license number.

  • NEVER give out your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or passwords.

  • Report lost or stolen credit cards, checks or identification immediately.

  • Shop online only with reputable merchants in secured areas. Secure sites will have a URL that begins with https: or s-http:. Also, look for a padlock on the website – this signifies the use of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

  • Never write your Social Security Number or driver’s license number on your checks.

  • Never leave your mail in an unsecured mailbox, and contact the U.S. Postal service if you don’t receive mail for a few days.

  • Obtain a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies each year. Government regulation requires each major credit bureau provide consumers with a FREE credit report annually, but you must request it. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get yours.

 

If you are a victim, take these steps immediately:

 

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, ask for a free copy of your credit report, and review those reports for evidence of accounts you didn't open. Fraud unit contacts are:
     

                                                    Equifax

                                                    888-766-0008
                                                    P.O. Box 740241

                                                    Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
                                                    www.equifax.com

                                                    Experian

                                                    888-397-3742
                                                    P.O. Box 9532

                                                    Allen, TX 75013
                                                    www.experian.com

                                                   TransUnion

                                                   800-680-7289
                                                   P.O. Box 6790

                                                   Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
                                                   www.transunion.com

 

  • Close accounts--including share drafts/checks or ATM cards--that have been tampered with or used fraudulently. Contact all financial institutions and lenders, credit card issuers, utility companies, and the Social Security Administration to notify them of the fraud. Follow up each conversation with a letter.