Protect yourself from identity theft
Protect your passwords
- Don’t carry your personal identification numbers (PIN) in your wallet or purse.
- Don’t share PINs or passwords, even with close friends or relatives.
- Avoid using easily available information for your PINs or passwords such as your mother’s maiden name, your or a family member's birth date, your Social Security Number or phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4).
- Choose a different PIN for each account.
Protect your information online
- Never send your Social Security Number or financial account numbers by email or transmit these numbers online unless using a secure website or encryption software.
- Shop only on secure websites, and read website privacy policies
- Keep virus protection software up to date.
- Secure your wireless router and use the built-in encryption mechanism.
- Check your computer for “spyware” and install software that will protect against spyware downloads such as “key-logging” spyware that records your keystrokes.
- Use a password to protect your computer.
- Don’t store financial account information on your computer.
- Don't store Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) or account numbers on a computer that is accessible to the Web.
- Check with your Internet service provider about security features such as how to block spam.
- If you suspect hacking or email tampering, report it to your local law enforcement.
- Be careful about following links provided in an email, and never follow links sent by someone you don't know.
Protect your personal information
- Be cautious about providing any personal information online.
- Don’t post personal financial information on social networking sites or in chat rooms.
- Beware of websites that ask personal questions or require a credit card number to enter the site.
- Before you do business with a company online, research them.
- Choose an alias as a user name and use an alternate email address for online shopping, internet auctions and other online transactions.
If you are the victim of identity theft...
This guide below from the Tennessee Department of Safety provides victims of identity theft with the major resources to contact. Victims themselves have the ability to assist greatly with resolving their case. It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage.
In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, times, names, and phone numbers. Note the time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.
Once you discover you are a victim of identity theft you should notify the following:
- Credit Bureaus -- Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies- Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers. The phone numbers are provided at the end of this brochure. Ask that your account be flagged. Also, add a victim's statement to your report, up to 100 words. ("My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at (your telephone number) to verify all applications.") Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your account, and how you can extend it if necessary.Be aware that these measures may not entirely stop new fraudulent accounts from being opened by the imposter. Ask the credit bureaus in writing to provide you with a free copy every few months so you can monitor your credit report.Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask the credit bureaus to remove the inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. You may also ask the credit bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information (two years for employers).
- Creditors -- Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently- by phone and in writing. Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your own accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request." (This is better than "card lost or stolen" when this statement is reported to credit bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss.) Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report it immediately to credit grantors.Creditors are required to report fraud. You may be asked by banks and credit grantors to fill out and notarize fraud affidavits, which could become costly. The law does not require that a notarized affidavit be provided to creditors. A written statement and supporting documentation should be enough (unless the creditor offers to pay for the notary).
- Law Enforcement -- Report the crime to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in your case. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the report number of your police report handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report to verify the crime. Some police departments have been known to resist writing reports on such crimes. Prior to January 1, 1998, the creditors (credit card companies, banks, etc.) were the only "legal" victims of Credit Fraud/Identity Theft. California Penal Code Section 530.5 went into effect on January 1, 1998, thus giving legal standing to individual victims. Some police departments have not yet received training in the new laws of Identity Theft. Be persistent!
- Stolen Checks -- If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of. 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).
- ATM Cards -- If your ATM card has been stolen or is compromised, get a new card, account number, and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your social security number or your birth date.
- Fraudulent change of address -- Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address with the post office or has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud. Find out where the fraudulent credit cards were sent. Notify the local Postmaster for the address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk to the mail carrier.
- Social Security Number Misuse -- Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your social security number. As a last resort you might want to change the number. The SSA will only change it if you fit their fraud victim criteria. Also order a copy of your Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy.
- Passports -- If you have a passport, notify the passport office in writing to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport fraudulently.
- Phone Service -- If your long distance calling card has been stolen or you discover fraudulent charges on your bill, cancel the account and open a new one. Provide a password that must be used anytime the account is changed.
- Driver License Number Misuse -- You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as identification on bad checks. Call the state office of the Department of Safety's Driver License Division to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license. Go to the nearest local Driver License Station to request a new number. Also, fill out the driver license complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the complaint form to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Department of Safety.
- False Civil and Criminal Judgments -- Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by the imposter. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your imposter, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the state Department of Justice and the FBI. Ask how to clear your name.
Credit Reporting Bureaus:
Equifax: Roosevelt Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33716-2202
- Report Fraud: Call (800) 290-8749 and write to address above. Order a credit report: (800) 685-1111.
- Opt out of pre-approve offers of credit: (888) 5OPTOUT or (888) 567-8688.
Experian (formerly TRW): P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013
- Report Fraud: (888) 397-3742 and write to address above.
- Order a credit report: (888) 397-3742
- Opt out of pre-approve offers of credit and marketing lists: (888) 567-8688.
Trans Union: P.O. Box 390, Springfield, PA 19064
- Report Fraud: (800) 680-7289 Consumer Relations (800) 916-8800.
- And write to Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
- Order Credit Report: (888) 680-7293
Remember, if you have been the victim of credit fraud (15 USC § 1681j(b)) or are denied credit (15 USC § 1681j(c)) you are entitled to a free credit report. If you are a victim of fraud, be sure to ask the credit bureaus for free copies. The will often provide them.
Social Security Administration
- Report Fraud: (800) 269-0271
- Order your Earnings and Benefits Statement: (800) 772-1213
To remove your name from mail and phone lists:
Direct Marketing Association
- Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735
- Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 1173
To report fraudulent use of your checks:
- CheckRite: (800) 766-2748
- CrossCheck: (800) 843-0760
- Chexsystems: (800) 4285-9623
- Equifax: (800) 437-5120
- International Check Svcs: (800) 526-5380
- SCAN: (800) 262-7771
- Telecheck: (800) 710-9898
Other Useful Resources:
- Federal Government Information Center: Call (800) 688-9889 for help in obtaining government agency phone numbers.
- Federal Trade Commission (877) FTC-HELP for help in any type of consumer complaint (105 PL 318, 112 Stat.3007 Section 5)(specifically identity theft and referrals to local law enforcement). www.consumer.gov/idtheft