YOU CAN BE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
According to a recent Federal Trade Commission report, identity thieves
victimize up to 2,000 consumers every week, making identity theft one of the
fastest rowing crimes in the United States. The Florida Department of Financial
Services urges consumers to take precautions against identity theft. Here are
some actions you should take to protect your good name.
If you discover or suspect your identity has been stolen in some way, the
Florida Department of Financial Services recommends that you take immediate
action. These are some steps to take.
a report with your local law enforcement agency or with a law
agency where you believe the identity theft happened. Keep a copy of the report
in case your creditors need it later to verify the theft.
the three credit bureaus. Tell them you’re an identity theft
victim and ask that they place a “fraud alert” on your accounts, with a
statement instructing creditors to get your permission before opening any new
accounts or changing any existing accounts in your name.
copies of your credit reports from the credit bureaus and review
them carefully. Make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in
your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.
every one of your creditors – card companies, banks, credit unions,
utility companies, phone services, retail stores and others – to determine if
any of your accounts have been tampered with or new accounts opened
fraudulently. Follow up your phone calls in writing, and keep copies of all
accounts that have been tampered with and open new ones with
different Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords.
a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft
Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) TDD 866-653-4261.
Mail written complaints to:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
BE PATIENT. Your creditors are as anxious as you are to straighten out
the circumstances. Remember, when an ID thief strikes, victims can be many.
• When making a purchase, try to keep your debit/credit card
in your sight at all times.
• Review your monthly statements and question any unusual or unauthorized
• Shred receipts once you have matched them to your monthly statement.
• Be wary of anything suspicious at an ATM machine – for example, an
unusual piece of equipment.
NEVER give personal information to someone over the phone, on the
Internet or by mail unless you know who it is and you initiated the contact.
Check your mailbox every day. If you take a trip, ask the post office or a
trusted friend to hold your mail until you return. Send outgoing mail from a
post office or a post
office collection box. A red flag on your personal mailbox is a green light to
an ID thief.
ALWAYS ask for and destroy your credit card receipts. Review credit card
statements as soon as you get them. If you see any suspicious charges, contact
the card issuer immediately. In Florida in 2001, $60 to $70 million was stolen
by fraud. Do not enter your credit card numbers on unsecured Internet sites.
Make sure Internet vendors keep your credit card information in encrypted
DO NOT write your Social Security number on your checks. Have new checks
delivered to your financial institution (bank, credit union, savings
association) for pickup, rather than your mailbox. Report lost or stolen checks
immediately. Review statements from financial institutions the instant they
arrive. Use ATMs in well lit areas, but never let anyone see you enter your PIN
take your receipt from an ATM.
ASK how it will be used if someone wants to see your Social Security
number. If the answer doesn’t make sense to you, do not give your number. Your
Social Security number is one of your most valuable pieces of personal
identification. You will rarely need to show it.
SHRED all unwanted credit offers and other documents containing any personal
information about you before you throw them away. Keep all documents with
personal information in a safe place – especially if you have a roommate, employ
outside help, or are having work done on your home.
REVIEW your credit report at least once a year. Your report is available
for a small fee. The three main credit bureaus are:
Equifax – www.equifax.com
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111
or write: P.O.Box 740241, Atlanta, GA
To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and
write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA
Experian – www.experian.com
To order your report, call: 1-888-397-3742
or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013
To report fraud, call: 1-888-397-3742 and
write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion – www.tuc.com
To order your report, call: 1-800-888-4213
or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 and
write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division,
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834