Identity theft involves someone assuming your identity to commit a fraud or other criminal act. Criminals can get the information they need to assume your identity from a variety of sources, such as the theft of your wallet, diving into your trash, searching the Internet or from credit or bank information. They may even ask you for the information by telephone or in a chat room. Sources of information about you are so numerous that you cannot prevent the theft of your identity.
The three major credit reporting bureaus need to know your identity was stolen, call them!
Minimize Your Risk
You can minimize your risk of loss by following a few simple hints:
- Never throw away Automatic Teller Machine receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form. Shred them, if possible, with a crosscut shredder.
- Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call.
- Reconcile your bank account monthly and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
- Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
- Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company, and the police/sheriff as soon as you detect them.
- Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.
- If your identity has been assumed, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect in your credit report.
- If you know of anyone who receives mail from credit card companies or banks in the names of others, report it to local or federal law enforcement authorities.
What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
There are several steps you should immediately take if you feel your identity has been stolen and used without your permission. Most credit card companies will not hold you responsible for charges made by a thief, but you need to act quickly. For any accounts that have been fraudulently opened or accessed, contact the security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions, and explain what happened. Close these accounts. Put passwords on any new accounts you open.
Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) 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. Here are the numbers for reporting fraud:
Phone: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- Trans Union
File Federal Trade Commission Complaint
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling the identification (ID) Theft Hotline: 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338). You may also visit the FTC's Identity Theft website for more information on how to react to ID theft and, more importantly, how to protect yourself in the future.
Contact your local Better Business Bureau for additional information regarding local problems of Identity Theft.