Common Ways Identity Theft Happens
- Dumpster Diving. Rummaging through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming. Stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing. Pretending to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal personal information.
- Changing Your Address. Diverting billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form and then charging your account. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there is a problem.
- "Old-Fashioned" Stealing. Stealing wallets, purses, mail, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, tax information. Or, stealing personal information while they're on the job, bribing or conning an employee who has access to records, or hacking records.
What Identity Thieves Do With Your Information
- Establish phone, cable, credit, or bank accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don't pay bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
- Counterfeit checks, credit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain your bank account.
- File for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they have incurred under your name or to avoid eviction.
- Buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
- Get identification such as a driver's license issued with their picture and your name.
- Get a job or file fraudulent tax returns.
- Give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued for you.
Ways to Detect Suspicious Activity
- Bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Mistakes on account statements, credit reports, and medical benefits.
- Calls from debt collectors about debts that don't belong to you.
- Mail, email, or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child's name.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
Ways to Avoid ID Theft
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your number on a check. Only give it out if absolutely necessary.
- Don't respond to unsolicited email, text, and phone messages that ask for personal information. Delete the messages.
- Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software on computers.
- Use passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters and don't use the same password for multiple accounts.
- When shopping or banking online, use websites that protect financial information with encryption. An encrypted site has "https" at the beginning of the web address- "s" is for secure.
- If you use a public wireless network, never send information to a website that isn't fully encrypted.
- Set computer operating systems, web browsers, and security system to update automatically.
- Keep personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or have work done in your house.
- Only carry identification information and credit cards that are absolutely needed.
- When ordering new checks, pick them up from the bank instead of having them mailed.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review each. If you contact one of the following agencies, they will automatically contact the other two:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
- Close accounts that you believe have been tampered with.
- File a police report in the jurisdiction where the identity theft took place.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission.