Avoiding Identity Theft
Identity theft is a growing problem that we all hear about on a regular basis. It is a serious crime and occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Protect yourself by guarding your personal information and not give it away to persons you don't know.
Tips to help you protect yourself:
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information, charge receipts, bank statements and checks, expired credit cards, etc. before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card, unneeded credit cards or other ID cards you do not need with you.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Don't use obvious passwords 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.
- Routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements.
- Inspect your credit report. 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 877-322-8228, to order your free credit report each year. You can also write: Annual Credit Report Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
If You Become a Victim:
- If you become a victim, report this to law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Place a Fraud Alert on your credit reports. See Credit Reporting Bureaus below.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or have been fraudulently established.
- Keep records and documents of your conversations about the theft and to verify account closures and fraudulent debts discharged.
- Keep in mind that thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information such as, dumpster diving, skimming, phishing, changing your address, or through old fashioned stealing. Protect yourself and your records!
Identity Crime Incident Online Form - You may be instructed to complete this form and provide it to the Police Department.
Credit Reporting Bureaus
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:
Experian, 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
To learn more about ID theft and how to deter, detect, and defend against it, visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft or www.iowaattorneygeneral.org and click on "Protecting Consumers."