How can someone steal
Identity theft occurs
when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social
Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without
your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen
can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the
mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime,
victims may lose job opportunities, be refused
loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they
If you think your
identity has been stolen, here's what to do now:
Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to
place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors
to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your
existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert,
the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud
alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.
Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened
fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized
File a police report with the Amherst Police Department. Get a copy of the
report from our records
submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
How can I prevent
identity theft from happening to me?
with any crime, you can't guarantee that you
will never be a victim, but you can minimize your risk. By managing
your personal information widely, cautiously and with an awareness of the
issue, you can help guard against identity theft.
- Don't give
out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the
Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who
you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of
banks, Internet service providers (ISPs) and even government agencies to
get you to reveal your SSN, mother's maiden
name, account numbers, and other identifying information. Before you
share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a
legitimate organization. Check an organization's website by typing
its URL in the address line, rather than cutting and pasting it.
Many companies post scam alerts when their name is used
improperly. Or call customer service using the number listed on
your account statement or in the telephone book.
- Don't carry
your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.
personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates,
employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.
- Guard your
mail and trash from theft:
outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post
office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from
your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up
your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or your local
post office to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold
your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are
home to receive it.
- To thwart
an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to
capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts,
copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements,
checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're
discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail. If you do not
use the pre-screened credit card offers you receive in the mail, you
can opt out by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). Please note
that you will be asked for your Social Security number in order for the
credit bureaus to identify your file so that they can remove you from
their lists and you still may receive some credit offers because some
companies use different lists from the credit bureaus' lists.
- Carry only
the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards
that you'll actually need.
passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using
easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth
date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series
of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that
many businesses still have a line on their applications for your
mother's maiden name. Use a password instead.
- Ask about
information security procedures in your workplace or at businesses,
doctor's offices or other institutions that collect personally
identifying information from you. Find out who has access to your
personal information and verify that it is handled securely. Ask about
the disposal procedures for those records as well. Find out if your
information will be shared with anyone else. If so, ask if you can keep
your information confidential.
- Give your
SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of
identifiers when possible. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's
license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your
health insurance company uses your SSN as your account number.
attention to your billing cycles. 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.
- Be wary of
promotional scams. Identity thieves may use phony offers to get you to
give them your personal information.
- Keep your
purse or wallet in a safe place at work as well as any copies you may
keep of administrative forms that contain your sensitive
ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank, rather than having them
sent to your home mailbox.
- If you're
being deployed in the military, place an active duty alert.
I have a computer and use the
Internet. What should I be concerned about?
If you're storing personal
information such as SSNs, financial records, tax
returns, birth dates, or bank account numbers in your computer, the following
tips can help you keep your computer and your personal information safe from
protection software should be updated regularly, and patches for your
operating system and other software programs should be installed to
protect against intrusions and infections that can lead to the
compromise of your computer files or passwords. Do not open
files sent to you by strangers, or click on hyperlinks or download
programs from people you don't know. Be careful about using file‑sharing
programs. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer
virus or a program known as Aspyware,@ which could capture your passwords or any other
information as you type it into your keyboard.
- Use a
firewall program, especially if you use a high‑speed Internet
connection like cable, DSL or T‑1 that leaves your computer
connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. The firewall program
will allow you to stop uninvited access to your computer. Without
it, hackers can take over your computer, access the personal information
stored on it, or use it to commit other crimes.
- Try not to
store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely
necessary. If you do, use a strong password B a combination of
letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. A good way to
create a strong password is to think of a memorable phrase and use the
first letter of each word as your password, converting some letters into
numbers that resemble letters. For example, "I love Felix;
he's a good cat," would become 1LFHA6C
- Before you
dispose of a computer, delete all the personal information it
stored. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands or
reformatting your hard drive may not be enough because the files may
stay on the computer's hard drive, where they may be retrieved
easily. Use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the
entire hard drive
- Look for
website privacy policies. They should answer questions about
maintaining accuracy, access, security, and control of personal
information collected by the site, how the information will be used, and
whether it will be provided to third parties. If you don't see a
When should I provide my Social
Your employer and financial
institution will likely need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes.
Other businesses may ask you for your SSN to do a credit check, like when you
apply for a car loan. Sometimes, however, they simply want your SSN for
general record keeping. If
someone asks for your SSN, ask
the following questions:
- How do you
protect it from being stolen?
- What will
happen if I don't give it to you?
If you don't provide your
SSN, some businesses may not provide you with the service or benefit you
want. Getting satisfactory answers to your questions, though, will help you
to decide whether you want to share your SSN with the business.
For more in-depth
information on recovering from identity theft and help with specific
problems, read The Federal Trade Commissions periodical on identity
3 MAJOR CREDIT BUREAUS
Equifax - www.equifax.com
To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
call: 800-525-6285 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Hearing impaired call 1-800-255-0056 and ask the operator to call the Auto
Disclosure Line at 1-800-685-1111 to request a copy of your report.
Experian - www.experian.com
To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write:
P.O. Box 2002,
Allen TX 75013
call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write:
P.O. Box 9530,
Allen TX 75013
Union - www.transunion.com
To order your report, call: 800-888-4213 or write:
P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022