Fight Identity Theft

Identity Theft occurs when someone steals your personal information (for example credit card or Social Security number) and uses it fraudulently. It can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name. This is something that everyone needs to be aware of and concerned about.

Threats to Your Identity - How can they get my information?

Identity thieves may:

  • Go through your trash or dumpster dive
  • Steal your wallet or purse
  • Steal your mail or submit a change of address form for your mail
  • Use phishing or fake emails to get you to provide personal information
  • Steal personnel records from their employers

Special Concerns for Students:

  • Dormitory burglaries
  • Driver's license/student ID theft
  • Credit card offers
  • Use of Social Security numbers for identification

What You Can Do:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created a program with these points:

  • Deter - Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information
  • Detect - Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements
  • Defend - Defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect a problem

Deter: Avoid becoming a victim Expand

Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information

  • Shred financial documents before discarding them
  • Protect your Social Security number
  • Don't give out personal information unless you’re sure who you’re dealing with
  • Don't use obvious passwords
  • Keep your information secure

Threats to your Identity

While using a computer and the internet cannot be made completely safe, there are a number of things that you can do to make it much, much safer. Here are the threats that are out there these days:

  • Phishing: You get an e-mail that appears to be from your bank or an online service, most often PayPal or eBay, instructing you to click on a link and provide information to verify your account
  • Pharming or spoofing. Hackers redirect a legitimate Web site's traffic to an impostor site, where you'll be asked to provide confidential information
  • Smishing: This is phishing done with text messaging on your smart phone. It instructs you to visit a bogus Web site.
  • Spyware:. You've unknowingly downloaded illicit software when you've opened an attachment, clicked on a pop-up or downloaded a song or a game. Criminals can use spyware to record your keystrokes and obtain credit card numbers, bank-account information and passwords when you make purchases or conduct other business online. They also can access confidential information on your hard drive.
    You don't need to have a computer to become a victim.
  • Vishing (or voice phishing): You get an automated phone message asking you to call your bank or credit card company. Even your caller ID is fooled. You call the number and are asked to punch in your account number, PIN or other personal information.
  • ATM skimming: Crooks use a combination of a fake ATM slot and cameras to record your account information and PIN when you use a cash machine.Crooks will steal your wallet, or go through your mail or trash.

Follow these steps to deter thieves:

  • Keep your confidential information private. Your bank or credit card company won't call or e-mail to ask for your account information. They already have it.
  • Keep an inventory of everything in your wallet and your PDA, including account numbers.
  • Don't keep your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Burn or shred, with a cross shredder, any mail or financial papers with your personal information on it. Never recycle them.
  • Call 1-888-5OPTOUT and ask to stop credit card companies from sending pre-approved credit card applications to your house. They are ticking identity theft time bombs.
  • Ask your credit card firm to cease delivery of "convenience checks." They, too, are ticking time bombs.
  • You're entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the 3 reporting agencies. Get it as soon as possible and review it carefully.
  • Order a credit report a month or more before you make a big purchase or apply for credit, to be sure there are no surprises in your history.
  • Hassle companies that ask for personal information, such as your phone number at a checkout line. The harder we make it on companies, the less they will be inclined to continue the practice.
  • Just hang up on telemarketers, particularly ones who seem to be fishing for personal information, like your birthday.
  • Don't store credit card numbers and other financial information on your cell phone.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you hold, and religiously inspect your financial statements each month. Consumer rights quickly fade over time; the sooner you discover an identity theft incident, the better.

Most of the time, you can't prevent an ID theft incident from occurring, because two-thirds of the time, some company that leaked the data is to blame. So be prepared, and be organized. Save paper bank records for a year, at least. You'll need them to prove your account balance in the event of a ID theft incident.

Detect: Know if you are a victim Expand

Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.

Be alert for:

  • Mail or bills that don't arrive
  • Denials of credit for no reason
  • Inspect your financial statements
  • Look for charges you didn't make

Inspect your credit report

The law entitles you to one free report a year from each nationwide credit reporting agencies if you ask for it .

Order online:

Note that this is the ONLY one you should go to for your free report. There are many lookalikes out there that will give you a free report and then sign you up for a recurring monthly charge for further reports. Also when you are forwarded from to the individual credit reporting sites, be careful what you click on. There are many opportunities to sign up for services for which you will be charged. It is not always as obvious as it should be what you should click on to get your free report. Please read carefully. Click here for information from the FTC on your consumer rights.

Order by phone: 1-877-322-8228

Defend: Defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect a problem Expand

Close accounts that have been tampered

File a police report

Place a 90-day “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports by calling any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies below or following this link. Placing a fraud alert on your account entitles you to a free credit report from each agency. Order these reports and them carefully. Look for fraudulent activity.

What does an alert do?

With a fraud alert active, you have to be available at either your work phone or home phone to approve opening the credit account. It will just require a short delay in your instant gratification and a call-back to the credit company authorizing the new account. A fraud alert won't cause any problems with your current credit card, bank or credit accounts. It's focused on new credit accounts, not the ones you already have opened. NOTE: If you're just about to apply for a home loan or refinance, let your broker know that you have a fraud alert in place because you're trying to protect yourself against fraud.

The Initial or 90-day Alert

A 90-day temporary alert is added to your account when you alert the credit reporting agency (CRA) that you have a good faith suspicion that you have been, or are about to become a victim of fraud or related crime, including identify theft. Consumers who add this alert are entitled to request a free copy of their disclosure and will be opted-out of Prescreen for six months. The consumer will be able to add a phone number to this alert so that the data user can verify the identity of the consumer. You only need to call one of the three or fill out just the single form above. Whoever you report it to will share the information with the other credit reporting agencies (CRAs) through the Fraud Exchange System.

The Extended (7-Year) Alert

A seven-year alert added to your account when a you submit an Identity Theft Report (below) and proof of identity. Consumers who add this alert are entitled to request two free copies of their disclosure and will be opted out of Prescreen for five years. This alert must include a telephone number or other reasonable contact method so that the data user can verify the identity of the consumer. This form must be manually filled out and mailed in to a CRA.

The request form is here. You only need to send this form to one reporting agency. The link is for Experian. Experian will share the information with the other credit reporting agencies (CRAs) through the Fraud Exchange System.

Removing an Alert

If you decide you want to remove a fraud alert you'll need to visit the same link as for placing the hold.

Relevent Phone Numbers:

  • Equifax - 800 525-6285
  • Experian - 888 397-3742
  • TransUnion - 800 680-7289
  • SSN-Fraud - 800 269-0271

Contact the Federal Trade Commission for more information.

Top 10 Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Expand

  1. Cancel unused credit cards (cutting them up is not enough).
  2. Don't carry your Social Security card, passport, or birth certificate with you, except when necessary.
  3. Shred all credit card receipts and solicitations, canceled checks and financial documents before throwing away.
  4. Check your credit card statements and immediately report unauthorized purchases.
  5. Don't give out your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, or any account information over the phone, unless you are sure the caller is legitimate. Adopt a "need to know" approach to your personal data.
  6. Order credit reports once a year from one of the credit-reporting agencies:
    Order online:
    Order by phone: 1-877-322-8228
    Report any accounts you did not apply for. For more information on consumer rights, Click here
  7. Have your name removed from lists sold to companies offering pre-approved credit cards by calling one of the credit agencies above.
  8. Never include your Social Security number on personal checks and only release your Social Security number when absolutely necessary. If a business requests it for identification, ask to have an alternative number used.
  9. Never write down PINs and passwords: memorize them. Do not use any part of your Social Security number, your name or any easy to guess words or sequences.
  10. Install a locked mailbox at your residence.