Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Identity theft is a growing problem.† Many people across the country have become victims of this crime.† Here are a few basic steps you can follow to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft yourself:
††††††††††† -† Donít give out personal information.† Never reveal your account numbers, personal account information or social security numbers over the telephone, via mail or over the Internet, unless you initiated the contact or know whom you are dealing with.
††††††††††† -† Store your personal information in a safe place.† Shred old credit card and ATM receipts, old account statements and unused credit card offers before you discard them.† Home shredders are inexpensive and available at most department and office supply stores.
††††††††††† -† Protect your PIN numbers and other passwords.† Avoid using information that can be easily obtained.† (e.g.: your motherís maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number or your phone number).† Donít leave your receipts behind or throw them in the trash where thieves can easily retrieve them.† Once you no longer need them, shred or tear them up into tiny pieces.
††††††††††† -† Carry only identifying information you routinely use.† Keep your driverís license, credit card and related items close at hand.† Never leave your handbag, backpack, laptop, cell phone, etc... laying around where they could be stolen or tampered with.
††††††††††† -† Watch your account information and billing statements.† Know your billing cycles and review monthly billing statements carefully.† Make sure that all charges, drafts or withdrawals were authorized.† If you miss a bill a few months in a row, your identity might have been compromised.† Call the company with whom you have the account, and check your customer information.
††††††††††† -† Guard your mail against theft.† Remove incoming mail promptly, and deposit all outgoing mail at your post office collection boxes.† Donít leave outgoing mail in your mailbox.
††††††††††† -† Review copies of your credit report.† Order copies of your credit report yearly from each of the three major credit bureaus to ensure that they are reporting accurate information.
-† Watch for signs that your information is being misused. For example, you may not get certain bills or other mail on time. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks. Other signs include:
∑ receiving credit cards that you didn't apply for;
∑ being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason; and
∑ getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't buy.
What To Do If Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised
Companies or institutions that keep personal information about you have an obligation to safeguard it. Still, from time to time, the personal information they hold may accidentally be disclosed or deliberately stolen. If your information falls into the wrong hands, it may be misused to commit fraud against you.
If you get a notice that your personal information may have been compromised, taking certain steps quickly can minimize the potential for the theft of your identity.
If the stolen information includes your financial accounts, close compromised credit card accounts immediately. Consult with your financial institution about whether to close bank or brokerage accounts immediately or first change your passwords and have the institution monitor for possible fraud. Place passwords on any new accounts that you open. Avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number (SSN) or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.† The longer the password, the more secure it is.
If the stolen information
includes your Social Security number,
call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three nationwide consumer
reporting companies and place an initial
fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert can help
stop someone from opening new credit accounts in your name.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com;
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com;
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division,
An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days. When you place this alert on your credit report with one nationwide consumer reporting company, you'll get information about ordering one free credit report from each of the companies. It's prudent to wait about a month after your information was stolen before you order your report: suspicious activity may not show up right away. Once you get your reports, review them for suspicious activity, like inquiries from companies you didn't contact, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information ó like your SSN, address(es), name or initials, and employers ó is correct.
If the stolen information includes your driver's license or other government-issued identification, contact the agencies that issued the documents and follow their procedures to cancel a document and get a replacement. Ask the agency to "flag" your file to keep anyone else from getting a license or another identification document in your name.
Continue to read your financial account statements promptly and carefully, and to monitor your credit reports every few months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. For more information on getting your credit reports free once a year or buying additional reports, read Your Access to Free Credit Reports at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/freereports/index.shtml.
If your information has been misused, file a report about your identity theft with the police, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission HERE. Go to the FTCís webpage Defend: Recover From Identity Theft for detailed information on other steps to take in the wake of identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on consumer issues, please visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
All Content Copyright © 2012 Independent Farmers Bank
All Rights Reserved ē Page Revised 06/11/2012