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FYI - Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft can be classified possibly as the "hottest" crime of the century.  And anyone can become a victim of this crime.  Identity thieves will use a person's personal information, ie social security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth or account number, to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing charge accounts, write checks, open bank accounts, or obtain new loans. 
They obtain this information by several means:
1 - steal wallets that contain identification information or credit cards
2 - steal bank statements from the mail
3 - divert mail from its intended recipient by submitting a change of address form
4 - rummage through trach for personnal date
5 - steal identification information from workplace records
6 - intercept or otherwise obtain information transmitted electronically

Are you at risk for becoming an identity theft victim? 

Test your identity theft awareness by answering these questions.  Add up your points  at the end and find out how you did.
Are you at risk.....? 
* you receive several offers of preapproved credit every week.  5 points
*Add 5 more points if you do not shred them before putting them in the trash. 
*You carry your social security card in your wallet.  5 points
*You do not have a PO Box or locked secure mailbox.  5 points
*You use an unlocked, open mailbox at work or home to drop off outgoing mail.  10 points
*You carry your military ID in your wallet at all times.  10 points
*You do not shred or tear banking and credit information when you throw it in the trash.  10 points
*You provide your social security number whenever asked, without asking how that information will be used or safeguarded.  10 points  
*Add 5 points if you provide your SSN orally without checking to see who may be listening.
*You are required to use your SSN at work as an employee or student ID number.  5 points
*You have your SSN printed on your employee badge that you wear at work or in the public.  10 points  
* You have your SSN or driver's license number printed on your personal checks.  20 points
*You are listed in a "Who's Who" guide.  5 points
* You carry your insurance card in your wallet or purse and either your SSN or that of your spouse is the ID number.  20 points
* You have not ordered a copy of your credit report for at least two years.  10 points
*You do not believe that people would go through your trash looking for credit or financial information.  10 points

How You Rate

* 100 points - High risk
* 50 - 100 points - Your adds of becoming a victim are about average.  Higher is you have good credit
* 0 - 50 points - Congratulations, you have a "High IQ".  Keep up the good work and don't let your guard down.

What You Can Do to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Do not give personal information, ie SSN or account numbers over the phone, through the mail, orver 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 recepits, ATM receipts, old account statement and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
Protect your passwords and PINS.  Avoid using easily available information, is your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last 4 digits of your SSN, your phone number, etc.
Carry only trhe minimum amount of identifying information and number of credit cards that you need.
Pay attention to billing cycles and statements.  Inquire of the bank, if you do not receive a monthly bill.  It may mean that the bill has been diverted by an indentity thieve.
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 witha 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.  The law permits the credit bureau to charge $8.50 for a copy of the report. 
If you prefer not to receive preapproved offers of credit, you can opt out of such offers by calling 1-888-5 OPT OUT. 
If you want to remove your name from many national direct mail lists, send you name & address to:
DMA Mail Preference Service
PO BOX 9008
Farmingdale, NY  11735-9008 
If you want to reduce the number of telephone solicitations from many national marketers, send your name, address, and phone number to:
DMA Telephone Preference Service
PO BOX 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

If You Become A Victim.......

Contact the fraud department of each of the 3 major credit bureaus to report the identity theft and request that the credit bureaus place a fraud alert and a victim's statement in your file.  The fraud alert puts creditors on notice that you've been victimized, and the victim's statement asks them not to open additional accounts without first contacting you.
The Credit bureau numbers are:
Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
Equifax         1-800-525-6285
Experian       1-888-397-3742
Review you report to amke sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name, or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.  Also, check the section of your report that lists "inquiries" and request that any inquirires from companies that opened the fraudulent accounts be removed.
Contact any bank or creditor where you have an account that you think may be the subject of identity theft.  Advise them of of the theft.  Request that they restrict access to your account, change your account password, or close your account.  If your If your bank closes your account, aske them to issue you a new credit card, ATM card, debit card, as appropriate.
File a report with your local police department.
Contact the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).  The FTC puts the information into a secure consumer fraud database and share it with local, state and federal law enorcement agencies. 

Fot more information regarding Identity Theft, go the the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) web site at and check the Hot Topics section. 

Some Additional Information -
Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice!

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company.

1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".

3. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.

4. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a
PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

5. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more. But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

1. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important of all : (I never even thought to do this.)

3. Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet,
etc., has been stolen:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

Please send comments to Laura Hafeman

Last updated on 06-18-2015