Identity thieves steal your personal information to commit fraud. They can damage your credit status and cost you time and money restoring your good name. To reduce your risk of becoming a victim, follow the tips below:
• Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet; never write your Social Security Number("SSN") on a slip of paper kept in your wallet or on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
• Protect your Personal Identification Number("PIN"). Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.
• Watch out for "shoulder surfers". Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using pay phones, and Automated Teller Machine("ATMs"), and Point of Sale("POS")terminals.
• Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
• Keep your receipts. Ask for copies and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
• Tear up or shred unwanted receipts, credit offers, account statements, expired cards, etc., to prevent dumpster divers from getting your personal information.
• Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work. Don't leave it lying around.
• Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information in the mail, over the phone, or online.
• Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
• Check your credit report once a year. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gotten access to your SSN, personal, or account information.
If you believe that someone is using your identity illegally:
Report the crime to the FTC. The FTC is responsible for receiving and processing complaints for victims of identity theft. Certain cases will be referred to law enforcement agencies, regulatory agencies, or private entities that can help. Call toll-free 877-IDTHEFT (438-4338). The government central Website for information on ID Theft is listed below.
Get free copies of your credit reports. When you file a fraud alert, the credit bureaus will contact you with information about how to get free copies of your credit reports. This will help you monitor your account(s) for problems. The special toll-free numbers for fraud departments are: Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742, and Trans Union at 800-680-7289.
When a financial account is involved, contact your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution immediately. If your credit card, debit card, ATM card, or checks have been stolen, inform your bank promptly and ask what you need to do to protect your money. If necessary close old accounts and open new ones; select new passwords and new PINs.
Report the crime to the local police or the police where the identity theft occurred. Fill out a police report and get a copy of the report to help clear up questions and issues when dealing with your creditors and other financial institutions.
U.S.A. Government Identify Theft website:
Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website:
State of California Identify Theft website:
Top 10 Tips for Identity Theft Protection: