AVOID IDENTITY THEFT
Fight Back with Three Simple Effective Steps
"Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name. In 2006, there were over 10,000 victims in Illinois of identity theft. Don't be one of them. You can fight back by following these three simple but effective steps."
Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information.
- SHRED financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- PROTECT your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- DON'T give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- NEVER CLICK ON links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer and keep them up to date.
- DON'T Use a obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your social security number.
- KEEP your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
- Your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
- The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it.
- Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by the above three companies, to order your free credit reports each year. You can also write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
- Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
- Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll free numbers for placing an initial 90 day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
- EQUIFAX: 1-800-525-6285
- EXPERIAN: 1-888-397-3742
- TRANSUNION: 1-800-680-7289
- Placing a "Fraud Alert" entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you hadn't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
- CLOSE ACCOUNTS. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
- Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
- Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft
FILE A POLICE REPORT
Contact the Quincy Police Department immediately. We have trained officers who will investigate your complaint and offer you assistance.
COMMON WAYS ID THEFT HAPPENS
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including the following:
Dumpster Diving: Thieves rummage through your trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
Skimming: Thieves steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Phishing: Thieves pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
Changing your address: Thieves divert your billing statements to another location by completing a "change of address" form.
"OLD FASHIONED" STEALING: Thieves steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank statements and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks and/or tax information. Thieves steal personal records from their employers, or bride employees who have access.