Sweeny Police | ID Theft

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ID Theft

Introduction

Due to increasing reports being filed at the Sweeny Police Department from Identity Theft/Fraud, and after carefully reviewing national trends, we thought this section could be a valuable source of information to protect consumers against the No. 1 consumer fraud complaint in the nation.

According to the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), victims spend an average of 175 hours and $1,000 to clear their names after an incident of ID Theft.

Identity Fraud is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in America.

Last year, about one million Americans were victimized by identity theft, according to law enforcement officials and privacy advocates.


Victimization

Identity theft can result in the following to a victimized consumer:

  • Denied employment
  • Denied credit
  • Denied loans and mortgages
  • Denied government benefits
  • Denied utilities
  • Denied leases
  • Garnished wages and tax refunds
  • Liens placed on property

Prevent ID Theft

We have provided a simple checklist experts and victims recommend to help prevent identity theft.

  1. Once a year --- starting now --- check your credit report from all three of the credit bureaus listed below.  Look for inaccuracies, anything amiss.  Confirm your records are up-to-date.

  2. Develop the habit of reading your account statements as they arrive --- bank, credit cards, etc.  Unauthorized charges are often the first red flag.

  3. Guard your Social Security Number like the family jewels.  Don't carry your card with you.  Don't put your SSN or driver's license number on your checks.  Don't give your SSN to anyone unless absolutely necessary (tax forms, employment records, most banking, stocks, police reports).  The SSN is the key criminals use to unlock your finances.

  4. Don't carry extra credit cards, your birth certificate, or your passport with you except when necessary.  Reduce the number of credit cards you use to a minimum.

  5. Arrange the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine (except for the cash), copy both sides of each license, ATM and credit card, health insurance card, etc.  Keep those copies in a safe place.  If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will have the numbers to call immediately.

  6. Order new checks that use only your first initial with your last name.  If a crook filches your checkbook, he won't know whether you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name --- but your bank knows.  Arrange to pick up your new checks at the bank instead of having them mailed to you.

  7. Get a paper shredder.  This is not paranoid behavior.  Destroy all mail, credit card offers, and paper you throw away that contain sensitive information.  Identity thieves need only your name, address, and SSN --- which they can find on trashed mail or on identification in your wallet.

  8. Consider telephone solicitors suspects.  Never confirm or provide any personal information (not your date of birth, mother's maiden name, ATM pin numbers, not even your address!) unless you initiated the call.

  9. Put a lock on your mailbox.  Send all outgoing mail from post office collection boxes, not an unsecured mailbox.  Try not to let mail stay in your mailbox for long.

  10. Reduce the flood of pre-approved credit card offers by removing your name from the marketing lists of the credit reporting bureaus.  Call 888-5OPT-OUT.  You will have to provide your SSN.

  11. Call your credit card companies, bank, and phone company and ask to place passwords or extra security protection on your accounts.

  12. Never allow your credit card number to be written as an ID on your checks.

  13. Create passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) that are unpredictable --- don't use the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, middle name, etc.  And remove all PINs and passwords from your wallet or purse.

  14. Stop leaving those ATM, gas pump, and credit card receipts behind.  Never toss them in a public trash container.

  15. Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement once a year from the Social Security Administration to check for fraud.

  16. Keep your canceled checks in a safe place --- they reveal a lot of personal information that could put you at risk for fraud.

  17. Online, before providing personal information to a Web site, read its privacy policy and make sure it provides an encrypted connection before making a credit card purchase.  Look for seals of approval from online-security firms such as VeriSign or Entrust.  Secure pages show a locked padlock symbol in the lower right corner of your browser and have "https" addresses.  Avoid sites that ask for more than your name, address, phone number, and credit card number.

  18. Update your virus-protection software today and regularly hereafter, or whenever a new virus alert is announced.  Viruses can introduce codes that cause your computer to send out files.

  19. Never download files sent by strangers or click on hyperlinks in e-mails from senders you don't know.

  20. Install a fire-wall program --- especially if you have a high-speed Internet connection such as cable, DSL, or T-1.  The fire-wall allows you to stop uninvited hackers from accessing your computer.

  21. Install an anti-spy program that searches and destroys spy software that infiltrates your computer from the Internet.  Lavasoft's Ad-Aware is free at www.lavasoftuse.com

  22. Don't store financial information on your laptop computer.  If you must, use a complex password.  Don't use the automatic log-in and password feature.  Laptops are often stolen for the information on them, not just the hardware.

  23. Keep a separate credit card with a lower limit exclusively for online transactions. 


Fight ID Theft

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Call the fraud division of the three credit bureaus and place a "fraud alert" on your name and social security number (SSN).  Any company or creditor then must contact you first to authorize new credit.  Ask the credit reporting agencies to send you copies of your credit reports (identity theft victims get them free).

  • File a police report in the jurisdiction where it was stolen.  This proves to credit providers you were diligent.  If you suspect the mail was used, notify your local postmaster.

  • Notify your bank so that they will contact you if there's any unusual activity in your account.  Change your PINs.

  • Contact creditors who have opened fraudulent accounts or permitted access to your existing accounts.  Tell them this is a case of ID theft and close those accounts.  Request copies of all applications and transactions on the account.

  • Contact the FTC --- the national clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft --- at 1-877-IDTheft.  File their ID Theft Affidavit that alerts companies and organizations that may have fraudulent accounts opened in your name.


Numbers You Need

Credit Bureaus

Bureau Main # Fraud #
Equifax 800-685-1111 800-525-6285
Experian 888-397-3742 888-397-3742
Trans Union 800-888-4213 800-680-7290

Federal Agencies

Agency Main # Fraud #
Social Security Administration 800-772-1213 800-269-0271
Federal Trade Commission 877-438-4338 877-IDTheft

Other Resources

Organization Main #
Identity Theft Resource Center  
Identity Theft Resource Guide  
ID Theft Victim 888-343-4414
U.S. Consumer Protection Safety 800-638-2772

State of Texas, Office of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division

800-337-3928

 


Sources

  • Oldenburg, Don.  Washington Post.  Reprinted Houston Chronicle. Stolen Identities:  Take Precautions to Avoid Becoming the Next Victim.  01-15-2003.

  • Gordon, Jim.  American Police Hall of Fame Newsletter.  Protect Yourself From IDENTITY FRAUD!  2003.

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More Information
Visit these Web sites for additional information & assistance.

 

FTC: ID Theft Home

 

ID Theft Victims

 

ID Theft Resource Guide

 

ID Theft Victims Guide

 

ID Theft Prevention

 

Social Security Admin.

 

Privacy Rights