Avoiding ID Theft

avoiding ID theft

ID theft is one of the fastest growing crimes. It involves a person who takes your identity and applies for credit and other items in your name.

They fraudulently obtain your credit information and money accounts by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for — and a legal right to — the information. And it may take 30-60 days before you note something wrong, giving them ample time to open accounts in your name with your stolen information.

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How You Can Become a Victim

From the FTC: How Identity Thieves Strike

information source: www.ftc.gov

  • They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards
  • They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information
  • They complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location
  • They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster diving"
  • They fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for — and a legal right to — the information
  • They get your business or personnel records at work
  • They find personal information in your home
  • They use personal information you share on the Internet
  • They buy your personal information from "inside" sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit


How ID Thieves Use Your Personal Information

information source: www.ftc.gov

  • They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your credit card account. The impostor then runs up charges on your account.

    Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there's a problem.
  • They open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and SSN. When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • They establish phone or wireless service in your name.
  • They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • They file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
  • They counterfeit checks or debit cards, and drain your bank account.
  • They buy cars by taking out auto loans in your name,

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Preventing Identity Theft

Check your Credit Report Regularly

The whole premise behind ID theft is obtaining credit under your name. Your credit report contains everything about you: your SSN, bank accounts, credit accounts, bill payment accounts, etc.

By checking your credit report regularly, you can verify that the information on your report is correct and detect mistakes or potential fraud as soon as possible.

use this ID Theft protection plan from LifeLock to monitor activity on your credit report


Don't Give Out Your Personal Information

This is especially true for phone calls that come into your home or through your email account.

Identity thieves may pose as bank representatives, government agencies, law enforcement, and brand-name service providers. They will initiate a call into your home, represent themselves as a party with whom you may know and trust, and then try to get you to reveal your personal information.

General rule:
never reveal anything about yourself unless you initiate the contact or if you request a phone number that you may call back to authenticate the representation being made.

Tired of unsolicited telemarketing calls?
Some of those calls may be from identity thieves requesting your credit card information.

If you opt out of telemarketing calls into your home, you can protect yourself from "unauthorized calls" — meaning that by placing your home phone on the FTC "National Do Not Call Registry" , you can assume that the call into your home may not be legitimate.

click here for information on the FTC National Do Not Call Registry


Use Reputable and Secured Web Sites

The internet has become one most popular fronts for scamming individuals for ID information. What appears to be a professional, secured web site is in reality a front used to collect personal information for identity theft purposes.

Basic rules to follow:

  • Always use a secure browser
    – software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet – to guard the security of your online transactions.

    You should use 128-bit encryption for maximum security. You can download the latest Internet browsers that come with a minimum 128-bit encryption technology
  • When making a transaction
    — such as entering your personal information — make sure the web site that you are using is on a secured server.

    A secured server will start with the letters: https://
    An unsecured server starts with the letters: http://

    The "s" identifies a secured server that encrypts the information you submit. Also look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to be sure your information is secure during transmission.

    If the web site is not secured, do not enter personal information of any kind.
  • Check the web site's business reputation
    — any legitimate site will carry the seal of approval — meaning that their business practices have been investigated by a third-party.

    One of the most recognized seal of approval comes from the Better Business Bureau. Many reputable sites carry the BBB Online Reliability Seal. Clicking the seal will link you to the BBB web site for information related to that company.

    More information about internet fraud

    Read some interesting stories on internet fraud


Protect Your PC

Update your virus protection software regularly. Computer viruses can introduce computer code that will scan for and send out personal information.

Do not open emails with attachments or download files from individuals you do not know. Many of these files contain virus-related code.

Use firewall programs if your PC is connected to high-speed Internet connections like cable, DSL or T-1 internet lines. Your computer is connected 24-hours a day to the internet; it can invite authorized guests to hack into your system.

Be careful what you store on personal laptops. They can be stolen. If you have your personal banking and other information on your laptop, you run the risk having your identity stolen along with your laptop.


Watch Your Mail

Collect your mail as soon as it is delivered. If you are going away on vacation, make sure you request a mail hold by the US Postal Service. Click for information.

A popular scheme by ID thieves is to collect pre-approved credit card offers from your mail box and initiate the credit offering for themselves under your identity.

Most pre-approved mail offers contain some of your personal information. You may request a STOP to all pre-approved

(read this brief from experian on opt-out)

This number is used by all three credit bureaus. Your request will put a STOP on your credit profile when finance companies pull defined credit parameters for pre-approved offers.


Shred Important Documents

Identity thieves will rummage through garbage cans and trash looking for documents with SSN, credit card numbers, driver's license numbers, date of birth, etc.

Shred your documents before placing them in the garbage. This includes utility bills, government notices, and any mail items or documents that contain personal information.

Pre-approved credit offers contain personal information. Make sure your shred those offers prior to trashing them. You may also request a STOP to pre-approved offers by calling:

(read this brief from experian on opt-out)


Guard Your Personal Information

Do not print your social security number, phone number, date of birth, or credit card number on checks, envelopes, stationary, or any other documents that float in the public.

Do not carry your social security card with you. Only carry those items you actually use such as identification, credit, and debit cards.

If a merchant, employer, or creditor asks for personal information, find out why they need the information, what they intend to use the information, and what privacy guarantees that they can offer.


Pay Attention to Your Billing Cycle

If a regular bill does not show up in its regular cycle, call your creditors immediately. A missing bill could be a used for identity theft purposes.


Be Careful Against Promotional Scams

If is sounds to good to be true, it generally is. Email scams such as quick money or ease of life are general indications of promotional scams.

Be careful with email notices from legitimate companies. Many email scams pose as, information from your bank for example, asking you to update information. You link to a page that looks like your bank. Many of these are fraudulent web site trying to collect your account information. So check with your bank or other company to see if the notice was sent actually sent doing anything with the email.

More information about email scams

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What To Do If You Become A Victim

Contact the Credit Bureaus

Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.

click for information on the major credit bureaus


Contact Your Creditors

For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions. Close these accounts. Put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name) on any new accounts you open.


File a Report with Your Local Authorities

File a report with your local police or the police where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company, or others need proof of the crime later on.

More information:

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