Protect Your Identity
The fastest growing form of consumer fraud in the country is Identity theft.
It does not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, economic status or anything else.
You need to know how to protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim.
What is Identity Theft?
It’s as simple as obtaining key pieces of your identification such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and/or credit card information in order to fraudulently impersonate you.
How are the pieces of identification obtained?
The obvious way is to steal wallets and purses that contain credit and bankcards, driver’s licenses, etc., - and then the not-so-obvious means: stealing the mail, completing a “change of address form” to divert mail; “dumpster diving” – rummaging through the trash for personal data; fraudulently getting your credit report by posing as a landlord, an employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for “a legal right to” the information; getting your personnel records at work; personal information on the internet; and, they pay “inside” sources to get information about you that may appear on an application for goods, services or credit.
Protecting yourself from Identity Theft
- Keep blank checks secure. New technology allows thieves to scan your checks to replicate them or they can “wash” your used checks and re-issue them.
- Before you reveal any personal information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared with others.
- Never give out your social security number, credit card information or other personal information to anyone over the phone, the Internet or mail unless you initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.
- Carry only the identification and credit cards you are going to use.
- Do not carry your social security card with you.
- Memorize your personal identification numbers (pin).
- Avoid using the same password in your daily business.
- Keep items with personal information in a safe place.
- Make sure you shred personal documents or credit card offers before you throw them away.
- Pay attention to billing cycles. If a bill doesn’t arrive on time, check with the creditor.
- Deposit outgoing mail at your local post office and promptly remove mail from your mailbox. Put a hold request on your mail if you’re going to be away from home.
- Ask for a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. Look for irregularities on the report. They do not share information between each other so it is advisable to contact each one. You are entitled to one free report from each bureau annually.
- Limit the number of unwanted calls to your home by writing an “opt out” letter to the following organizations or by registering on line with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov (1-888-382-1222).
- E-Mail solicitation – go to www.e-mps.org/en to submit your application. This request is good for one year.
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service (MPS)
P.O. Box 9008
Farmington, NY 11735
Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
P.O. Box 9014
Farmington, NY 11735
Letters should be processed within 90 days and are good for 5 years.
What to do if you have been victimized
If you do become a victim of identity theft, call the local law enforcement agency and report the crime. Since 2004, Illinois has required police to take reports on suspected identity theft.
Issue one of two types of a Fraud Alert Request that will alert credit bureaus your accounts are being used fraudulently.
- A “Victim Statement” is good for seven (7) years. Potential creditors are required to contact you personally before issuing credit in your name. With this statement, you will find it hard to qualify for instant credit and you will not be able to view your credit report on line.
- A “Security Alert Statement” is good for 90 days (temporary measure). This statement instructs potential creditors to verify your identification before granting credit. After the 90 days have expired, you must show that you are at risk of being an identity theft victim. If the credit bureau agrees with you, they grant you a 3 – 7 year extension.
- Contact the credit bureaus fraud division listed below:
- Equifax – P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA, 30348, Phone # 1-800-525-6285
- Experian – P.O. Box 9556, Allen, TX, 75013, Phone # 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union – P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA, Phone # 1-800-680-7289
You should also contact any/all financial institutions and/or credit card accounts that may be affected; contact the Social Security Administration regarding missing Social Security cards; and notify the Secretary of State’s Office regarding the loss of a driver’s license.
By the time you find out you were a victim of identify theft, it’s usually too late. Eighty-five percent of ID theft victims find out when they were denied credit or they’re being barraged with phone calls from collection agencies, credit card companies or being contacted by the police.
Please contact the Northfield Township Road District for sample letters or to have someone come to your business, organization or club to talk about identity theft. You can contact us at 847-724-7055.