Steps to help protect your identity from being stolen.

April 26th to May 4th is Privacy Awareness Week!

 

Identity theft is the number one consumer complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 – 18% of all complaints.

Javelin’s Identity Fraud Survey estimates 5.26% of US Adults during 2012 experienced identity fraud – at a cost of $21 Billion.

Incidents related to government benefits are the most common form, more complex and require more time and money to detect and resolve.  “Average” victim spends 141 hours and $2,104 out of pocket to resolve, by the Department of the Treasury.

The rash of identity theft has made us take notice and we wish to provide you with some best practices for protecting yourself.  The use of these tips will make it harder and less likely that an imposter can steal your personal information.  Unfortunately even with extra precautions, if you find yourself a victim, we’ll discuss additional tips to help in the recovery process.

A thief does not need your wallet to steal your information.  Today, thieves seek bits of information about you through the trash, assessing public records and posing as yourself.  They may hack into your computer, swipe your credit card in a device that steals information, or take the information right out of your mailbox.  Workers at health care and other facilities have access to all of your sensitive information.  Once your information is stolen and used, your information may be re-sold to another thief.

Tips for protection:

Share information only when necessary.

When in public, exercise caution when providing personal information.

Do not carry unnecessary identification.

Stop the unsolicited “pre-approved credit card” offers.  Contact the credit bureaus and inform them that you don’t want to be included on any list they provide to the marketers!

Remove your name from mailing lists.

Review your credit card statements monthly.

Review your credit report at least once year; the three credit bureaus are as follows:

 

Trans Union

P.O. Box 1000

Chester, PA 19022

800-888-4213

www.transunion.com

 

Experian National Consumer Assistance Center

P.O. Box 9554

Allen, TX 75103-2104

888-397-3742

www.experian.com

Equifax Information Center

P.O. Box 740241

Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

800-685-1111

www.equifax.com

 

 

E-Mail:  Don’t type anything into an electronic message that you wouldn’t want posted in public.  If you receive e-mail which appears to be from your service provider or any other company asking for credit card information, DO NOT REPLY.

Delete e-mail form unknown sources.  Don’t download anything unless you know the sender as e-mail enclosures may contain a virus or spyware.  Also be aware of emails that look suspicious from people you DO know.  Hackers have been able to send emails from what may appear to be your own friends email.  When in doubt, delete it.

Never provide personal, bank account or credit card information to anyone who contacts you through telephone on internet solicitation.  If someone contacts you, tell them you will call them back from the number listed on the back of your card, etc.

Passwords – don’t use the last 4 digits of your social, date of birth, middle name, mother’s maiden name or anything that can be easily discovered by thieves.

Be careful about disclosing your personal identifiable information such as your mother’s maiden name.  Avoid answering password recovery questions with the correct answers.  Instead, use another password to answer the question.

Use a shredder!

Keep a list of all credit cards, account numbers and customer phone numbers in a SECURE place so that you can quickly call your creditors in case your cards are stolen.

Secure your mailbox!  Don’t leave envelopes containing checks or other sensitive information in your home mailbox!  Mail them at the post office or give them directly to the postal carrier.

Don’t display personal or family information on the internet or on a home page.

Consider placing a security freeze on your credit file.

Review your health insurance benefit statements for signs of fraud.

My Identity was stolen, Now What?

Contact the appropriate police or sheriff’s department within your jurisdiction.  Keep a copy of the police report as you will often be required to verify there was a purported crime.

Report the lost or stolen credit cards immediately to the credit agencies.  If you find fraudulent or erroneous charges, contact the company.

Call the Credit Bureaus and request your account be flagged for fraudulent activity.  Include a statement that creditors should all you for permission before they open any new accounts in your name.  Future creditors will then be alerted to past problems and take extra precautions before granting credit.  You may be required to file an ID Theft FTC Affidavit.

Notify Social Security if you suspect someone has used your number to get a job.  To report fraudulent use, call 800-269-0271.

Contact the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC).  They offer assistance to identity theft victims.  877-IDTHEFT or www.consumer.gov/idtheft  This is also a great source of information in helping repair identity theft.

Taxes:  Contact the IRS at 800-829-0443 if you believe your identification is used in connection with tax violations.

Consideration may also be given for private companies that provide protection and recovery services.  These services usually charge a monthly or annual fee for credit watches and alerts.

Remember, you are your best protector of your information.

Read the full post »