You have no idea this has happened until you apply for a mortgage. Because these ‘bad’ accounts show up on your credit report, you don’t get the mortgage. Sound farfetched? The Pittsboro Police Department has taken such complaints, identifying a relatively new type of crime – identity theft. The following question/answer discussion is intended to give you the information you need to protect yourself from identity theft.
How can identity thieves get my personal information?
• They steal wallets, purses and mail that may include bank and credit card statements,
pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information.
• They rummage through residential or business trash for personal data (credit card receipts, discarded bank statements, pre-approved credit offers, etc.)
• They use personal information you share on the Internet.
• They establish wireless or phone service in your name.
• They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on the account.
• They buy cars by taking our auto loans in your name.
How can I minimize my risk?
Although you may not be able to completely prevent identity theft, there are ways you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information carefully.
• Protect your mail from theft by depositing outgoing mail in the post office collection boxes or at the local post office. Remove incoming mail promptly after delivery. Stop mail delivery if you are going to be away from home.
• Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry with you to only what you will actually need.
• Keep your Social Security card in a secure place and do not give out your Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers whenever possible.
• Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.
• Tear up or shred you charge receipts, credit offers/applications, insurance forms, physician statements, discarded bank checks or bank statements and expired charge cards.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills do no arrive on time.
What should I do if I become a victim of identity theft?
If you suspect that your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, take the following steps immediately and keep a record of your conversations and correspondence.
• First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus: 1) Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241, 1-800-525-6285, 2) Experian, P.O. Box 949, Allen, TX 75013-0949, 1-888-397-3742, 3) Trans Union, Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834, 1-800-680-7289
• Second, contact the creditors of any accounts (credit card companies, phone companies or other utilities, banks or other lenders) that have accounts that have been tampered with and open new ones with new personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords. When selecting a PIN or password avoid using readily available information, such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of you Social Security number or phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
• Third, file a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Request a copy of the police report to help you deal with creditors.
If you need additional information about identity theft, contact the Pittsboro Police Department at (317) 892-3329.