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Identity Theft: Could it Happen to You?

Maybe you never opened that account, or ordered an additional card, but someone else did....someone who used your name and personal information to commit fraud. When an imposter compromises your name, your Social Security Number, your credit card number, or some other piece of your personal information for their use - in short when someone uses your personal information without your consent or knowledge - it's a crime, pure and simple.

Are you a Victim?

The signs can be many, but typical indicators that your identity is being used include:

  • A creditor informs you that an application for credit was received with your name and address, which you did not apply for.

  • Telephone calls or letters state that you have been approved or denied by a creditor that you never applied to.

  • You receive credit card statements or other bills in your name, which you did not apply for.

  • You no longer receive credit card statements or you notice that not all of your mail is delivered.

  • A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity and you never opened the account.

Identity Theft Statement - What is it?

If you have been a victim of identity theft, the Identity Theft Statement helps you notify financial institutions, credit card issuers and other companies that the identity theft occurred, tell them that you did not create the debt or charges, and give them information they need to begin an investigation.

If you suspect that your personal information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately and keep a record of your conversations and correspondence. The following basic actions are appropriate in almost every case.

Start a log of dates, person(s) that you spoke with and exactly what they said.

Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus:

Equifax: (800) 685-1111
Experian: (800) 397-3742
TransUnion: (800) 888-4213

Request that a "Fraud Alert" be placed in your files. At the same time order copies of your credit reports.

  • Contact the fraud department of creditors for any accounts that have been opened or tampered with fraudulently. This may include credit card companies, phone companies, banks and other lenders.

  • File a report with your local Police or the Police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Remember: There is no reason to be paranoid; there's just reason to be careful. If someone wants desperately to target you, they can probably get a lot of information about you -- so you just need to minimize the criminal's opportunities to get that information. You can make yourself a harder target and that the best defense. If you are a victim, do not panic, you will not be out any money. The losses will be attributed to the banks and or companies associated with the fraud.

Minimize The Risk While you probably can't prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk.

Identity theft is on the rise and it can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.

Tips to reduce risk of Identity Theft:

  • Before you reveal any personally identifying information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared.

  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time.

  • Guard your mail. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Ensure mail is forwarded or re-routed if you move or change your mailing address.

  • Put passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SIN or your phone number.

  • Minimize the identification information and number of cards you carry.

  • Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact or know whom you're dealing with.

  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place. An identity thief will pick through your garbage or recycling bins. Be sure to tear or shred receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements and credit offers you get in the mail.

  • Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.

  • Don't carry your social security card; leave it in a secure place.

YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF

Identity theft is the fastest growing type of fraud. Protect your personal information. Ask all marketing research or charity callers for:

  • Detailed written information that you can check yourself.

  • Time to think about the offer. Scam artists pressure you for an answer, saying the offer will expire or go to the next person if you don't act now.

  • Valid references and the means to contact them.

  • A call-back number. But beware a crook can give you a number where a colleague is standing by to finish taking your money.

Shred unwanted personal documents such as transaction records, credit applications, insurance forms, checks, financial statements and tax returns.