Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses your account or personal information (your birth date, address, driver’s license, or Social Security number) and uses it to secure loans credit cards, checks, merchandise, etc. Good news – you can dramatically reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft by following these relatively simple steps:

  • Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry it with you and only give it out if absolutely necessary. Don’t have your driver’s license or Social Security number printed on your checks.
  • Do not have your Social Security number on your driver’s license.
  • Shred all credit card offers. Also, remove and shred the address portion of your junk mail. Always shred “old” credit card and ARM receipts, checks, deposit slips, insurance papers, pay stubs, tax records, etc. Most identity thieves find the information they need to perpetrate crimes by going through people’s trash.
  • Make photocopies and keep a record of all your credit and ID cards (names, account numbers, and customer service numbers). Keep the information in a secure place. By doing this, you will have the information necessary to cancel your cards in case any of your cards become lost or stolen.
  • Do not leave paid bills in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up – mail them at your local post office.
  • Memorize your password and PIN number. Don’t carry them on you.
  • Be suspicious when responding to promotions. Identity thieves have created fake promotional offers to get identification information from you.
  • Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the internet except when you initiate contact or know who you are discussing with. Identity thieves have posed as internet service providers, bank representatives, government agencies, and other people of trustworthy statures. Identify thieves will try to get your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, account numbers, and other important identification information.
  • When ordering new checks, only use your first initial and last name. That way if your checkbook is ever stolen, the thief won’t know if you signed with your first and last name or initials, but your credit union will. When your checks are ready, pick them up from the credit union: do not have them sent to your home. It is too easy for someone to grab them out of your mailbox.
  • Never allow sales clerks to write your credit card numbers on your checks for additional information.
  • Call your credit card company if your card has expired and you have not received a new one.
  • Minimize the number of credit cards you have.
  • Never give your personal information, credit card, or Social Security number over the telephone to someone claiming that you have won a prize.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year – examine it thoroughly. Credit reporting bureaus are the ones selling your name to the credit card companies that flood your mailbox with offers, especially with pre-approved offers. These are very dangerous and create easy ways for thieves to steal or submit a change of address to redirect your pre-approved offers to an easier access address. The national credit bureaus offer a toll-free number that enables consumers to opt-out of all preapproved credit offered with just one phone call. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) for more information.
  • Keep your home computer updated – with the most recent virus protection software, firewalls, and other protective software to protect against intrusions. It is also recommended that antivirus software be set up to update weekly automatically.
  • Try not to save or store financial information on your computer, laptop, or any other digital devices unless absolutely necessary. If you do, it is advised to use a strong password that consists of a numbers, symbols, and a combination of upper and lower case letters. A good technique is to use a memorable phrase and use the first letter or last letter of each word then integrate numbers and symbols that resemble letters. For example, “ I love my Credit Union, it’s better banking,” would be 1LmCU1bB. It’s best not to use automatic login features which save your username and password. Always log off when you’re finished. In the case of your laptop or device being stolen, it will make it harder for the thief to access your personal information.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, below are four steps that the Federal Trade Commission recommends following immediately.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting any of three consumer reporting bureaus which are listed below. By doing this it directs creditors to contact you directly before opening any new accounts or alternations can be made to the existing accounts. It is only necessary to contact one of the three because they are required to contact the other two companies, who will also place an alert on their version of your report. Once the alerts have been made you are entitled to order free copies of your credit report, and you can request the bureaus to only display the last four digits of your social security number on your reports.
  • Contact information for the three consumer reporting companies:
    • Equifax: 1.800.525.6285, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
    • Experian: 1.888.397.3742, P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
    • TransUnion: 1.800.680.7289, Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
  • Close the accounts you know or suspect to be altered or opened fraudulently. This includes credit cards
  • File a report with your local police or the police in your community where the identity theft took place. Try to get a copy of the report if you are not able to then at least get the report number. You will need this to submit to creditors and others who will require proof of the crime.
  • File your complaint with the FTC. FTC tracks and maintains a database of identity theft cases which is used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. By filing an identity theft complaint it helps them learn more about these thieves and the problems victims have so the FTC can learn how to better assist victims.
  • It is best to keep detailed notes of conversations you have with correspondences of your regarding your identity theft incident.