- Carry only the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you’ll actually need.
- Follow up with creditors if your bill doesn’t arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
- Review your bank and credit card statements monthly for signs of suspicious activity.
- Cancel all credit cards that you have not used in the last six months.
- Be wary of promotional scams.
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.
- Order your credit report at least once a year from all three major sources:
- Correct all mistakes on your credit report in writing.
- Secure personal information in your home and in your workplace.
- Remove your Social Security number from any identification you carry, such as checks, a driver license or your health insurance card (both your health insurance company and the Department of Motor Vehicles will give you a new number if you request it).
- Before providing identifying information, especially your Social Security number, ask if the information is required.
- Destroy all credit card offers as well as mail with personal information using a crosscut shredder, which cuts paper into confetti-like pieces instead of strips.
- Check your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, at least once a year and correct any inaccuracies.
- Memorize your Social Security number; don't carry your Social Security card with you.
- Sign your new credit cards immediately.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately. Make sure you keep the numbers of the issuers somewhere besides on the back of your card.
- Always check your monthly financial statements carefully against your receipts.
- Review your consumer credit report annually.
- Double check that mailboxes are official U.S. Postal Service collection boxes before you deposit your mail.
- Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, checks and bank statements, expired credit cards, and credit offers you get in the mail (an identity thief may pick through your trash to obtain your personal information).
- Never carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.
- Never leave mail in your mailbox for more than a day. If you are gone, arrange to have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail.
- Never put in a credit or debit card number through a website unless it offers a secure transaction.
- A secure transaction will have a “padlock” icon at the bottom strip of the web page. Also, the URL address will change from “http” to “https” on the page where you input personal data.
- Never carry important numbers or passwords with you.
- Never leave receipts behind.
- Never leave personal information in your car.
- Never use the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birth date, a similar series of numbers or your mother's maiden name as a password (Tip: if you are opening a new account that requests your mother's maiden name, use a password instead).
- Never give out personal information to someone who contacts you by phone or via e-mail, even if it seems legitimate. Call the company back using a phone number from a bill (not a phone number the person calling gives you) or go to the home page of the company's web site by typing the URL into your browser (not by following a link in an e-mail.).
What can you do if you become a victim?
As soon as you discover your identity is being used, you can begin to fight back to lessen the damage the criminal can do. This is why checking your financial statements frequently and carefully can be your best first step towards discovering an ID theft.
What to do
- Call the police:
- To report any physical theft of your belongings
- To report a robbery - If immediate danger is over, you can make a report to your local Police Department's non-emergency line. NOTE: Obtain a copy of the report if possible, or at least document the report number. You may need this to validate your claims to creditors.
- Call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office:
- If the crime involved U.S. mail – 206-442-6300
- Call the U.S. Secret Service:
- If the crime involved counterfeit credit cards or computer hacking – 206-220-6800
- Call the issuing credit card company:
- If the crime involved credit card fraud.
- Place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports and review your credit reports. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. NOTE: Be sure to check if any new accounts were opened in your name without your consent. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
The bureau numbers to report fraud are:
- Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
- Follow up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person (use "Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested").
- Write down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the conversation occurred.
- Save all documentation and keep copies of all correspondence and forms you send.
- Keep the originals of supporting documentation, like police reports and letters to and from creditors; send copies only.
- Call and/or write the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- File a complaint – By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them.
- Obtain counseling and help to resolve problems arising from this crime.
FTC CONTACT INFORMATION:
Identity Theft Hotline
Home page: http://www.ftc.gov/
Identity theft page: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580