Protect Your Finances: The Basics of Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. There are preventative measures you can take to reduce the chance of identity theft as well as steps to recover from any damage if you are a victim.
Three Steps to Preventing Identity Theft
1. Safeguard Personal Identity Information
- Keep all identification and financial documents in a safe and private place.
- Provide information only when you know how it will be used.
- Make all passwords hard to guess by making it complex.
- Request a hold if you can’t pick up your mail.
- Be aware of your workplace’s security procedures.
- Do not carry your Social Security card or your driver license number printed on your checks.
2. Check Security with Credit Cards, ATM and Debit Cards, and Checking and Savings Accounts
- Shred all statements and pre-approved credit card offers with a crosscut shredder.
- Be aware of people behind you at the ATM or anywhere else you swipe your card.
- Know where your checkbook is at all times.
- When you write a check, be sure to print firmly and use indelible ink.
- Examine your transactions on your statements each month.
3. Protect Files on Your Computer
- Update your virus protection periodically and use a firewall to prevent your computer from being accessible.
- Do not download files or open hyperlinks sent from people you do not know.
- Try not to store personal and financial information on your laptop.
Your Identity was stolen. Now what?
Keep copies of all letters, file paperwork promptly, and store everything in a safe and accessible place.
- If accounts have been used illegally, contact your creditors immediately.
- If a collection agency attempts to collect on a fraudulent account, explain (in writing) that you are a victim of identity theft. Ask to confirm in writing that you do not owe the balance and the account has been closed.
- Report the crime and file a police report.
- For checking account fraud, contact your financial institution. Close current accounts and obtain new account numbers and passwords.
- Notify the US Postal Inspection Service if your mail was stolen or your address was used fraudulently.
- Check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Dispute any fraudulent items.