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Fraud Prevention Center

Serving Those Who Serve

Identity Theft

Identify theft occurs when another individual uses personal information without permission to open fraudulent bank accounts, credit cards, secure loans, and even obtain employment. Identity theft has become a widespread problem that everyone needs to take seriously.

Your personal data, especially your Social Security number, bank account and credit card numbers, and telephone calling card number are just a few examples of the valuable identifying data that can fall into the wrong hands and be used for personal gain at your expense. Many people have reported that unauthorized persons have taken funds out of their bank or financial accounts or, in the worst cases, taken over their identities altogether, running up vast debts and committing crimes while using the victim's name.

Often a victim's losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses but substantial additional financial costs associated with trying to restore his or her reputation in the community and correcting erroneous information for which the criminal is responsible. Unfortunately, the damage that criminals do in stealing another person's identity and using it to commit fraud often takes far longer to undo than it took the criminal to commit the crimes.

How do thieves get my personal information?

  • They go through your trash can, looking for straight cut or papers that have not been shredded.
  • They steal your mail or your wallet.
  • They may complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
  • They listen in on conversations you have in public.
  • They trick you into giving them the information over the telephone or by email.
  • They buy the information either on the Internet or from someone who might have stolen it.
  • They steal it from a loan or credit application form you filled out or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business that you deal with. They may have obtained it from dumpsters outside of such companies.
  • They get it from your computer, especially those without firewalls.
  • They may be a friend or relative or someone who works for you who has access to your information.

How can identity thieves use the personal information they obtain on me?

  • They may call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there's a problem.
  • They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
  • They may establish phone or wireless service in your name.
  • They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • They may write counterfeit checks or use credit or debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain your bank account.
  • They may file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
  • They may buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
  • They may get identification such as a driver's license issued (with their picture) in your name.
  • They may get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
  • They may 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 in your name.

What can I do to help prevent my personal information from falling into the wrong hands and becoming a victim of identity theft? Adopt a "need to know" approach to your personal data including the following:

  • Check your credit reports once a year from any of the major reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free credit report each year which you can obtain through Equifax, Experian or Trans Union.
  • Guard your Social Security number. When possible, don't carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Don't put your Social Security number or driver's license number on your checks.
  • Guard your personal information. You should never give your Social Security number to anyone unless they have a good reason for needing it.
  • Watch for people who may try to eavesdrop and overhear the information you give out orally.
  • Carefully destroy papers you throw out, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. A crosscut paper shredder works best.
  • Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never provide information unless you have initiated the call.
  • Do not reply to any suspicious email requests and delete them.
  • Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail. When you are traveling, have your mail held at your local post office. In addition, outgoing mail from your home should not include sensitive personal/financial information.
  • Reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive. Call 1-888-5OPT OUT (they will ask for your SSN).
  • Review your credit card statements and bank account statements closely when received and retain them for at least one year. Notify your bank or creditor immediately should you discover transactions or charges you cannot account for.
  • Keep PIN numbers, passwords or other codes of access separate from their accounts or systems.

What should I do if I suspect or discover that I am a victim of Identity Theft?

  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft; or call toll-free at 1-877-438-4338.
  • File a report with your local police or the police in the community where you think the identity theft took place.
  • Notify all financial institutions and creditors to close or freeze all of your personal accounts.
  • You may also need to contact other agencies as well, including the Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration (1-800-269-0271) or the Internal Revenue Service (1-800-829-0433).
  • Contact the major check verification companies.
  • Place a fraud alert with one of the credit reporting agencies listed below and review your credit reports. The credit report agency you call is required to contact the other two, and an alert will be placed on their version of your report as well. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you are entitled to order free copies of your credit reports.
Credit Reporting Agencies
 
EQUIFAX
EXPERIAN
TRANS UNION
Report Fraud
1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta GA
30374-0250
1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 1017
Allen TX
75013
1-800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA
92634
Order Credit Report
(usually $8 fee in most states, free to identity theft victims)
1-800-685-1111
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta GA
30374-0241
1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 2104
Allen TX
75013
1-800-888-4213
P.O. Box 390
Springfield PA
19064
Opt out for Credit and Marketing Lists & Preapproved Credit Offers
1-888-567-8688
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta GA
30374-0123
1-800-353-0809
P.O. Box 919
Allen TX
75013
1-800-680-7293
P.O. Box 97328
Jackson MS
39238
Web Address

We hope this information will help you to better understand the nature and scope of identity theft. Use these practical steps to safeguard your personal and financial information.