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Identity Theft InformationFlorida Atlantic University Police want to help you be vigilant in securing your identity and reducing your risk of being a victim.
What is Identity Theft?
If someone is using your identifying information:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Driver's License Number, etc.
to obtain goods, services, credit, and or open fraudulent accounts, you are the victim of identity theft. Victims are left with a tainted reputation, poor credit, and the complicated task of restoring their good names.
Identity Theft Can Happen to Anyone
Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. If you are someone who usually thinks "it will never happen to me", don't. Deborah Majors, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), testified before the U.S. Senate on April 13, 2005, in which she stated over ten million people were victims of identity theft within a twelve month period (approximately 4.6% of the then adult population).
How is My Identity Stolen?
Your best protection for securing your good name is understanding where the thieves get your information. Here are some of the many ways thieves can obtain your personal identifying information:
Stealing or finding a lost wallet or purse containing a social security card, credit cards, drivers license, etc.
- Stealing mail being delivered to your home or that is left out for pick-up.
- Diverting mail to another mailbox using a false "change-of-address" request.
- Digging through dumpsters or trash cans looking for discarded checks, bank statements, credit card or other account bills, medical records, pre-approved credit applications, etc.
- Watching over your shoulder as you enter your PIN into an ATM or as you key your long-distance calling card number into a pay telephone.
- Calling to "verify" account information or to "confirm" an enrollment or subscription by having you repeat bank or credit card account numbers.
- Using false or misleading Internet sites to collect personal and financial information.
- Purchasing personal information from unscrupulous employees at companies with whom you do business.
- Burglarizing homes looking for purses, wallets, files containing personal and financial information.
- Burglarizing businesses looking for computers or files containing personal and financial information on clients.
- “Hacking” (breaking) into business or personal computers to steal private client files and personal financial information.
- “Phishing”- sending phony e-mail or “pop-up” messages that appear to be from a bank, credit card company, Internet Service Provider or other entity you do business with. These phony messages usually claim some issue with your account and direct you to another web site where you will be asked to supply credit card and other personal information.
Everyday diligence: Reducing the Risk
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances that you will become a victim of identity theft.
- Be very cautious about giving your personal or financial information to anyone.
- Never provide personal identifying or financial information over the phone when you did not initiate the call. This includes callers selling goods and services as well as charitable solicitors, banks, credit card companies, telephone companies, Police Departments, sweepstakes promotions and others. Legitimate companies and organizations do not call to "verify" account numbers or to ask for your social security number or other personal information.
- Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet. In addition, never have your social security number printed on your checks, drivers license or other financial documents. If a bank, health care provider or other entity uses your social security number for client or account identification, call or write that company and ask that a different identification number be issued.
- Never respond to e-mail or "pop-up" messages on your computer claiming some problem with a credit card, Internet or other account.
- Update your computer virus and security software protection regularly.
- Select passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) that will be tough for someone else to figure out. For example, don't use your birth date, home address, common numbers or personal information (like birth dates or part of your social security number) or commonly chosen words (such as a child's, spouse's, or pet's name). Don't keep Password and PIN information on or near your checkbook, ATM card, debit card or leave them next to, on or near your computer.
- Practice home security. Safely store extra checks, credit cards, or other financial documents. Don't advertise to burglars that you're away from home. Use timers on your lights and temporarily stop delivery of your newspaper and mail or ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail and any items that may arrive unexpectedly at your home.
- Use a "cross-cut" shredder (the kind that creates confetti, not the long strips) and shred all personal or financial documents you intend to discard before placing them in the trash.
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered. If you're going on vacation have your mail held at your local post office or ask someone you know and trust to collect your mail. Take outgoing mail to the post office, place mail in a post office blue collection box or hand it directly to a mail carrier.
- Arrange to pick up new checks at your bank. Don't have boxes of new checks delivered to your home (they do not fit in many mail slots so your postal carrier may leave them on your doorstep).
- Pay attention to your bank account statements and credit card bills. Immediately check into discrepancies in your records or if you notice something suspicious, such as a missing payment or an unauthorized withdrawal. Also, contact your institution if a bank statement or credit card bill doesn't arrive on time because that could be a sign someone has stolen account information and changed your mailing address in order to run up big bills in your name from another location.
- Don't leave ATM and credit card receipts behind or throw them away in the nearest trashcan. Shred them when you get home.
- Never e-mail personal or financial information. E-mail is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization's Web site, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a URL for a Web site that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
- Be aware of Chat Rooms. Logging into an Internet chat room or filling out an online contest form with personal information may all seem innocent and private--but it isn't. Also, chat room users never know who else is really out there. Never divulge your phone number, address, or any other personal information. In addition, chat rooms can trace your IP address or your machine; and that questionnaire information will probably be sold to every marketing firm on the Internet.
- Practice "on-line" or internet safety. Be suspicious of web offers that "seem to good to be true." Ensure the web site you are using is legitimate. Use your credit card and social security number only when absolutely necessary and that the web site and you are using secure communication links that are encrypted (scrambled).
- It is imperative that you check your credit report at least once a year. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will catch it early by checking your credit report regularly. Call immediately if you discover any irregularities. A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that each of the three consumer credit reporting companies (Experian, Trans Union and Equifax) provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every twelve months.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
- Don't carry around more checks, credit cards or other bank items than you really need. Limit the number of credit cards you carry by canceling the ones you don't use. Don't carry your Social Security number in your wallet or have it pre-printed on your checks. Also, don't leave your wallet unattended in a store, restaurant, office or other public place even for a few minutes.
- If you have recently been the victim of identity theft, the following tips are offered to assist you in resolving any problems associated with this crime. The names, addresses, and phone numbers of businesses and organizations that you might find useful are also listed.
- If you fall prey to such crime, immediately contact the fraud units of the three credit reporting bureaus (see below) and all creditors with whom your name has been used fraudulently. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the incident at 877-438-4338. The FTC maintains an informative site about identity theft.
- If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the seven check verification companies (see below), stop payment on outstanding checks through your bank, cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. Give the bank a secret password for your account (not your mother's maiden name).
- Write a form letter that can be mailed or faxed whenever you receive an inquiry about fraudulent checks written from your bank account. The letter should give a brief description of what happened, check numbers and check manufacturer (obtained from your bank), bank account number, case number (assigned by the police or law enforcement agency with jurisdiction), the name of the detective handling your case, and the name and phone number of the customer service representative at your bank. Keep a log of all conversations with financial and law enforcement agencies.
- If your ATM card has been stolen or compromised, get a new card, account number and password.
- If someone has submitted a fraudulent change-of-address to the post office to illegally receive credit cards in your name, notify your Postal Inspector, find out where the fraudulent cards were sent, and tell the Postmaster for that address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk to the mail carrier.
- If someone else obtains your Social Security number, call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 800-269-0271. As a last resort, the SSA may allow you to change your number. If you have a passport, notify the passport office in writing to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport using your Social Security number.
- If your long distance calling card has been stolen, or you find fraudulent charges on your bill, cancel the account immediately and open a new one. Provide a password that must be used any time the account is changed.
- If your driver's license number is being misused to write bad checks, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another license has been issued in your name. If so, put a fraud alert on your license and request a new number immediately.
If You Think You are a Victim of Identity Theft
Identity Theft is a "dual crime" - besides the financial institution that extended the credit being a victim, you are also a victim. It is important to note that you need not suffer any financial loss in order to be considered a victim of this crime.
- File a report with the local police department. For incidents originating on campus, call University Police at extension 7-3500 from any campus phone.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the problem. The FTC is the Federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. The FTC helps by providing information to help resolve the financial and other problems that could result from identity theft. The FTC's toll free hotline number is 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338). At the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Web site (http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft/) you'll find information about contacting credit bureaus, closing accounts, filing complaints with the FTC, and more.
- Contact the Social Security Administration, Fraud hotline: 1-800-269-0271.
- Notify the US Postal Inspector if your mail has been tampered with or stolen. Local numbers are listed under Federal Government in the telephone book or visit them online at http://www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect.
- Contact the Secretary of State (Illinois) or your local Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another license has been issued in your name. If so, ask them to put a fraud alert on your driver's license.
- Contact all creditors and financial institutions by telephone and in writing to advise them of the problem. Ask businesses to provide you with information about transactions made in your name. Set up a file to keep a detailed history of the crime including locations and dates if known. Keep a log of all contacts and make copies of all related documents.
- Call each of the three major credit bureaus' fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a Fraud Alert / Victim Impact statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts. Call to request a copy of your credit report (free for fraud victims) from all three major credit reporting agencies.
|Order credit report||800-888-4213||800-685-1111||888-397-3742|
If your checks have been stolen or a bank account has fraudulently been established in your name, notify the following check verification companies: