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Identity Theft is a common term used for all types of crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another’s personal data in some manner that involves fraud or deception, usually for economic gain. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.
How Identity Theft is Committed
- Shoulder Surfing: Watching you punch in telephone calling card, credit card, ATM numbers.
- Business Record Theft: Stealing personal files from businesses or institutions where you are a customer, patient, employee etc.
- Scamming: Posing as a legitimate company or government agency to obtain your personal information. This often happens through e-mail.
- Phone Fraud: Establishing cellular phone service in someone else's name.
- Skimming: Stealing credit and debit card numbers as the card is being
scanned/processed to pay for a purchase, using a special data collection device known as a “skimmer”.
- Dumpster Diving: Going through your trash or the trash of businesses to obtain copies of checks, credit card/bank statements or other records.
- Mail Theft: Stealing mail to get new credit cards, bank or credit card statements, tax information as well as falsifying change of address information.
- Steal Wallet or Purse: Obtaining personal information from the theft of your purse or wallet.
- The Information Highway: Obtaining information that you share over the Internet.
- Spoofing and Phishing: When thieves set up look-alike websites of legitimate businesses and trick consumers into entering their personal information by sending e-mail messages that warn them that their account is about to expire or has been accessed illegally.
Warning Signs Of Identity Theft
- Your monthly credit card and bank statements suddenly stop arriving.
- You are denied credit for reasons that do not match your understanding of your
- You start getting bills from companies you do not recognize.
- You receive calls from collection agencies or creditors for an account you don’t have or that is up to date.
- You observe unusual entries on your credit report.
- Financial account statements show withdrawals you didn’t make.
- A creditor calls to say you’ve been approved or denied credit that you haven’t applied for. Or, you get credit card statements for accounts you don’t have.
Preventing Identity Theft
- Guard your Social Security Number. Remember this is the most important step. This is the key to your credit report and banking accounts. Give it out only when it is absolutely necessary.
- Minimize the amount of personal financial information and credit cards you carry.
- Memorize passwords and PINs instead of carrying them with you.
- Keep personal financial information in a secure place in your home. Shred identifying information before throwing it away.
- Do Not give sensitive information to unsolicited callers. Remember that most legitimate businesses will not ask for your Social Security or bank account numbers.
- Shield your hand when entering your PIN at a bank ATM or when making long distance calls with a calling card. Take your credit card receipts and ATM slips. Shred them before throwing them away.
- Pick up new checks or a new or reissued credit card at your bank rather than having them delivered to your home. Do not have your driver license number or social security number printed on your checks.
- Check your credit report each year for signs of unusual activity.
- Limit the exposure of your Social Security number and personal information by giving it only when it is absolutely necessary.
- Do Not give personal information over the phone, over the Internet or through the mail unless you initiated the contact or are certain of the business’s trustworthiness.
- Keep duplicate records of your wallet’s contents.
- Mail payments from a safe location. Do not place them in your mailbox where they can be stolen.
- If your bank or credit card statement does not arrive on time, call the issuer to make sure they are being sent to the proper address. Also contact the Post Office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name. A thief may steal or divert your statements to hide illegal activity.
Top Ten ways to avoid being the Victim of Identity Theft
Shielding your private information with no risk of a breakdown may be impossible these days. But there are some simple ways to protect you from becoming a victim of Identity Theft. The Celina Police Department is providing these simple, but very important, tips to protect you and your name.
- Destroy private records and statements. Tear up – or, if you prefer, shred – credit cards statements, solicitations, and other documents that contain private financial information.
- Secure your mail. Empty you mailbox quickly, lock it or get a P.O. box so criminals don’t have a chance to snatch credit card pitches. Never mail outgoing bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and the payee’s name erased with solvents. Mail them from the post office or another secure location.
- Safeguard your Social Security number. Never carry your card with you, or any other card that may have your number, like a health insurance card. Don’t put your number on your checks. It’s the primary target for identity thieves because it gives them access to your credit report and bank accounts.
- Don’t leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.
- Never let your credit card out of your sight. Worried about credit card skimming? Always keep an eye on your card or, when that’s not possible, pay with cash.
- Know who you’re dealing with. Whenever anyone contacts you asking for private identity or financial information, make no response other than to find out who they are, what company they represent and the reason for the call. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company yourself and confirm what you were told before revealing any of your personal data.
- Take your name off marketers’ hit lists. In addition to the national Do-Not-Call registry (1-888-382-1222), you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations.
- Monitor your credit report. Obtain and thoroughly review your credit report (check for a free copy at www.Annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228) at least once a year to check for suspicious activity. If you find something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately. You may also look into credit protection services, which alerts you any time a change takes place with your credit report.
- Review your credit cards statements carefully. Make sure you recognize the merchants, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you don’t need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, consider closing the accounts.
If You Have Been The Victim Of Identity Theft
- Contact the Celina Police Department immediately: 972-382-2121
- Contact the following credit reporting agencies:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-IDTHEFT
- Review your Credit Report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. 1-877-322-8228 www.annualcreditreport.com
For additional information, please refer to the below sites:
- www.consumer.gov/idtheft ( Federal Trade Commission)
- www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm (Identity Theft: What to Do if It Happens to You)
- www.idtheftcenter.org/index.shtml (For Information on consumer based items click on consumer resources on the left side of the page) Go get consumer or victim related information click on consumer or victim on the left side of the page.
- www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/text/idtheft.html (Department of Justice)
- www.usps.com/postalinspectors/idthft_ncpw.htm (United States Postal Service information)