Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, affecting approximately 500,000 new victims each year.
Prevention of Identity Theft & Fraud
- Limit the amount of confidential or personal information you carry in your wallet or purse. Do not carry bank account number, personal identification numbers (PINs), passports, birth certificates or Social Security cards.
- Avoid carrying more blank checks than you actually need. A criminal can fraudulently use the sensitive information often pre-printed on your checks (address, bank account number, and telephone number). Do not have your Social Security number pre-printed on your checks.
- Keep good backup information about your accounts, in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
- When you go on vacation, take along a list of toll-free telephone numbers for your banking and credit card companies - not your card numbers - and keep the list in a safe place other than your wallet or purse.
- Consider canceling any credit cards you don't really need or haven't used in six months.
- Never provide personal information (Social Security number, credit card number, address, etc.) over the telephone unless you initiate the call and are familiar or acquainted with the business.
- Destroy - preferably shred - credit card applications you receive in the mail and don't use.
- Review your credit card bills and your checking account statements as soon as they are received, to ensure that no fraudulent activity has taken place.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year to check for errors.
- Be careful at ATM's and using phone cards. "Shoulder Surfers" can obtain your "PIN Number" and get access to your accounts.
- Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. Drop them off at a U.S. Mailbox or the U.S. Post Office. Mail theft is common. It is easy to change the name of the recipient on the check with an acid wash.
- When you order new credit cards in the mail, or your previous ones have expired, watch the calendar to make sure you get the card within the appropriate time, if it is not received by a certain date, call the credit card granter immediately and find out if the card was sent. Find out if a change of address was filed if you don't receive the card or billing statement.
- Consider making your telephone number an unlisted number or just use an initial instead of full first name in the directory.
- Obtain credit cards and business cards with your picture on them, whenever possible.
- If someone you don't know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a "major" credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data -such as your Social Security number, credit card number, or mother's maiden name- ask them to send you a written application form, if they won't do it, tell them you are not interested and hang up.
- When you are traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust to collect and hold your mail while you are away.
- If you're monthly credit card or bank statements do not arrive at the normal time of the month, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask about it.
Links to Fraud Investigation/Identity Theft Websites