Limit Chances of ID Theft
In our modern world identity theft has become commonplace, but its consequences are much more complex to the victim than having a television stolen and less risky to the thief than robbing a 7 Eleven store. Yes, we still have the sweet talkers and sweetheart scams and the purse snatchers, but new methods of theft and obtaining personal information have evolved as our world changes.
Heed the following suggestions:
• Be wary of unsolicited mail and email offers. “Phishing” scams reach Internet users through email.
• Guard your Social Security number; it is the “brass ring” of identity theft. Never give it out even if the request appears to be from a company with which you do business. Do not carry your number in your wallet.
• Use only bank ATMs and keep no more than $1000 in the account that is linked to your ATM card. Rigged ATMs are a common source of ID theft.
• Monitor your bills and financial reports. If any of your monthly bills do not arrive on time, contact the provider immediately.
• Never tell anyone if you live alone.
• Don’t leave bank statements, checkbooks and bills lying around.
• Bring in the mail promptly.
• Shred or tear up all charge receipts, credit applications sent to you in the mail, insurance forms, bank statements, expired credit cards, and any other documentation with your personal information. Buy a shredder!
Check Your Credit Reports
Checking your credit reports is the best way to find out if your identity has been stolen. Federal law entitles you to one free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus, so you could get one every four months. When contacting these companies, tell them you do not want to receive solicitations; this will keep you off some telemarketer lists. If your credit card or other identification is stolen, ask the companies to place a “fraud alert” on your account.
To obtain a credit report, you may do so online at www.annualcreditreport. com, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by sending a form which you download from www.annualcreditreport.com to one of the following companies: Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc., PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374 or Experion, PO Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104, or Transunion, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.
If you request your report by mail or by phone, it will take 2-3 weeks to receive the results. You will need to verify who you are by providing certain information such as credit card numbers, past home addresses, and past employers, so have this information available. Remember there are scammers and shysters out there, so use this website and these companies for your safety.
(Source: TIAA-CREF, June 2006)