- Do not leave bill payment envelopes clipped
to your mailbox or inside with the flag up; criminals may steal
your mail and change your address.
- Know your billing cycles, and watch for any
missing mail. Follow up with creditors if bills or new cards do
not arrive on time. An identity thief may have filed a change
of address request in your name with the creditor or the post
- Carefully review your monthly accounts, credit
card statements and utility bills (including cellular telephone
bills) for unauthorized charges as soon as you receive them. If
you suspect unauthorized use, contact the provider's customer
service and fraud departments immediately.
- When you order new checks, ask when you can
expect delivery. If your mailbox is not secure, then ask to pick
up the checks instead of having them delivered to your home.
- Although many consumers appreciate the convenience
and customer service of general direct mail, some prefer not to
receive offers of pre-approved financing or credit. To "opt
out" of receiving such offers, call (888) 5 OPT OUT sponsored
by the credit bureaus.
- The Direct Marketing Association offers services
to help reduce the number of mail and telephone solicitations.
To join their mail preference service, mail your name, home address
and signature to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association,
P. O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended
- even for a minute.
- Protect your PINs (don't carry them in your
wallet!) and passwords; use a 10-digit combination of letters
and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.
- Carry only personal identification and credit
cards you actually need in your purse or wallet. If your I.D.
or credit cards are lost or stolen, notify the creditors immediately,
and ask the credit bureaus to place a "fraud alert"
in your file.
- Keep a list of all your credit cards and bank
accounts along with their account numbers, expiration dates and
credit limits, as well as the telephone numbers of customer service
and fraud departments. Store this list in a safe place.
- If your state uses your Social Security number
as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
- When creating passwords and PINs (personal identification
numbers) do not use any part of your Social Security number, birth
date, middle name, wife's name, child's name, pet's name, mother's
maiden name, address, consecutive numbers, or anything that a
thief could easily deduce or discover.
- Ask businesses to substitute a secret alpha-numeric
code as a password instead of your mother's maiden name.
- Shield the keypad when using ATMs or when placing
calling card calls.
Memorize your passwords and PINs; never keep them in your wallet,
purse, Rolodex or electronic organizer.
- Get your Social Security number out of circulation
and release it only when necessary -- for example, on tax forms
and employment records, or for banking, stock and property transactions.
- Do not have your Social Security number printed
on your checks, and do not allow merchants to write your Social
Security number on your checks. If a business requests your Social
Security number, ask to use an alternate number.
- Never give your Social Security number, account
numbers or personal credit information to anyone who calls you.
- Store personal information in a safe place and
shred or tear up documents you don't need. Destroy charge receipts,
copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and
statements, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in
the mail before you put them out in the trash.
- Cancel your unused credit cards so that their
account numbers will not appear on your credit report.
When you fill out a loan or credit application, be sure that the
business either shreds these applications or stores them in locked
- Tear up receipts, bank statements and unused
pre-approved credit card offers and convenience checks before
throwing them away.
- When possible, watch your credit card as the
merchant completes the transaction.
- Use credit cards that have your photo and signature
on the front.
- Sign your credit cards immediately upon receipt.
- Carefully consider what information you want
placed in the residence telephone book and ask yourself what it
reveals about you.
- Keep track of credit card, debit card and ATM
receipts. Never throw them in a public trash container. Tear them
up or shred them at home when you no longer need them.
- Ask businesses what their privacy policies are
and how they will use your information: Can you choose to keep
it confidential? Do they restrict access to data?
- Choose to do business with companies you know
are reputable, particularly online.
- When conducting business online, use a secure
browser that encrypts or scrambles purchase information and make
sure your browser's padlock or key icon is active.
- Don't open e-mail from unknown sources. Use
virus detection software.
- Order a copy of your credit report from the
three credit reporting agencies every year and make sure all the
information is correct, especially your name, address, and Social
Security number. Look for indications of fraud, such as unauthorized
applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and
defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause.
- Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits
statement once each year to make sure that no one else is using
your Social Security number for employment.
If you suspect misuse of your personal information to commit
fraud, take action immediately. Keep a record of all conversations
and correspondence when you take the following suggested steps:
- so that the following can be done:
access to your accounts can be protected; stop payments on missing
checks; personal identification numbers (PINs) and online banking
passwords changed; and a new account opened, if appropriate. Be
sure to indicate to the bank or card issuer all of the accounts
and/or cards potentially impacted including ATM cards, check (debit)
cards and credit cards. Customer service or fraud prevention telephone
numbers can generally be found on your monthly statements. Contact
the major check verification companies to request they notify
retailers using their databases not to accept these stolen checks,
or ask your bank to notify the check verification service with
which it does business. Three of the check verification companies
that accept reports of check fraud directly from consumers are:
Telecheck (800) 710-9898, International Check Services (800) 631-9656
and Equifax (800) 437-5120.
- Obtain a police report number with the
date, time, police department, location and police officer taking
the report. The police report may initiate an investigation into
the loss with the goal of identifying, arresting and prosecuting
the offender and possibly recovering your lost items. The police
report will be helpful when clarifying to creditors that your
are a victim of identity theft.
and request a copy of your credit report. Review your reports
to make sure additional fraudulent accounts have not been opened
in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.
Check the section of your report that lists "inquiries."
Request the "inquiries" be removed from your report
from the companies that opened the fraudulent accounts. In a few
months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections
and changes to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
Request a "fraud alert" for your file and a victim's
statement asking creditors to call you before opening new accounts
or changing your existing ones. This can help prevent an identity
thief from opening additional accounts in your name. Here are
the major credit bureaus and their phone numbers: Equifax (800-525-6285),
Experian (888-397-3742) and Trans Union (800-680-7289).
Make sure no one has requested an unauthorized address change,
title change, PIN change or ordered new cards or checks to be
sent to another address. If a thief has stolen your mail to get
credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-screened credit
offers or tax information, or if an identity thief has falsified
change-of-address forms, that's a crime. Contact your local post
office and police.
- , what was lost and the steps you took to report
the incident to the various agencies, banks and firms impacted.
Be sure to record the date, time, contact telephone numbers, person
you talked to and any relevant report or reference number and