Crime Tips and Prevention

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12 Strategy Tips to Stay Safe from ID Theft:

Protect your Social Security number: Memorize your social security number. You should never carry your social security card in your wallet, but keep it in a safe place at home. Do not put your social security number on your checks or even credit receipts. Do not give out your social security number unless there is a privacy notice accompanying the request.

Shred any and all personal documents: Buy and use a diamond or cross-cut type shredder to shred anything that you discard that may contain personal or financial information. This includes financial records, bank statements, pre-approved credit offers from the mail, and credit card receipts. Identity thieves employ “dumpster diving” techniques to steal your identity, but if you shred your documents, they will come out smelly and empty handed.

Treat your mail with care: Stolen mail is almost the easiest way to get vital information. Keep a watchful eye on your mail and do not let simply sit in your mailbox all day. If you have a curbside mailbox, you may want to consider adding a lock to thwart identity thieves. Drop off checks at a USPS mailbox, instead of mailing them from home. Also, inform the post office to hold your mail when going on vacation and pick it up when you return.

Know your payment cycles: Monitor your payment cycles on your credit cards and when your bank statement arrives every month. Call if the statements are late; identity thieves could have requested a change of address. It is not unusual for identity thieves to run up hefty charges before you even notice.

When using the Internet, be on guard and watch for scams: Do not give personal information to people or companies who may ask you to click a link to verify your information. Do not click on links in email from unknown senders – if it is spam, it is a scam. Also, identity thieves have been using new “phising” techniques; they pretend to be an authoritative organization, such as your credit card or EBay, asking you to verify your information. Never use these scam links; instead, log directly into your institution’s website, and chances are you will see that the email was a scam. Never put identifying information on discussion forums or websites such as MySpace or Facebook. Also, you can further protect yourself by installing a good anti-spyware program and anti-virus scan on your computer.

Select strong and unique passwords: Password protect all of your accounts with a combination of letters and numbers. If you make up a word or phrase that does not exist in reality, your password becomes much stronger. When asked for a security question, do not use your mother’s maiden name, as this is very sensitive information. Memorize your passwords and PIN numbers, but do not use anything that would be easily guessed, such as birthdates or social security numbers.

Verify sources before sharing information: Only provide information over the phone to people that you know. Identity theft scams can happen when a person says that they are a credit grantor of yours. Ask them if you can call them back and call the number that you know belongs to the company. When you discuss personal matters, provide only information that you believe is absolutely necessary. Avoid conducting surveys over the phone; they gather too much personal information that puts your safety at risk.

Review your credit report frequently: Order your credit report at least twice a year; every three months would be ideal. Review it carefully. If you see anything that appears fraudulent or is not familiar to you, immediately put a fraud alert on your reports by calling the three credit reporting agency numbers. Ensure that all of your addresses are correct; if you witness a change in address, this is a huge sign that an identity thief is in the works. Check back with the credit agencies within 30 days to ensure the mistakes have been corrected. Also opt out of pre-approved offers with the credit bureaus by taking your name off all other promotional type of lists.

Consider identity theft coverage: An ounce of prevention goes a long way, especially when you think of the countless hours that you could spend attempting to recover your stolen identity. A solid identity theft coverage program, such as Lifelock and Identity Guard type service, will not only save you time and money, but substantial frustration as well. These services will consistently monitor any changes to your personal credit files, ensuring that identity thieves are thwarted from marring your financial reputation.

Clean out credit and debit cards: Cancel all old credit cards that you do not use because open credit is a prime target for identity theft. When you are going to receive a new card in the mail, be aware of when it should arrive. Call to check on the card if you have not received it by a certain date. Never put your credit card account number on the internet (unless you are sure that it’s encrypted on a secured site); instead, you can opt to use services like PayPal that shield your credit card number from being broadcasted all over the internet. In terms of debit cards, avoid going to the ATM late at night and always ensure no one is looking over your shoulder when you are entering your PIN.

Store information in secure locations: Put together a file of important information to safeguard your records. Make copies of all credit cards and bank account numbers, as well as their customer service phone numbers. Do not trust your hard drive to protect your identity, especially if it is connected to the internet.

Safeguard your wallet and personal checks: Even though it is convenient to keepsome things in your wallet, only carry what you absolutely need for day-to-day dealings. Never carry your birth certificate, social security card, or passport, unless necessary. When you order new checks, do not have your telephone number printed on them.

If you take these tips that help you stay safe from identity thieves, you safeguard your future and financial reputation. Remember, it is always easier to prevent id theft, than to fix the destruction an identity thief will wreak on your credit and finances.

5 Steps in the Event You Believe Your Identity has been Compromised:

Step 1:  Contact a Major Credit Bureau Agency to Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report.


Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud:


Fraud Division

P.O. Box 740250

Atlanta, GA 30374

800-685-1111 / 888-766-0008


Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud:


Credit Fraud Center

P.O. Box 1017

Allen, TX 75013

888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Trans Union

Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud:


Fraud Victim Assistance Department

P.O. Box 6790

Fullerton, CA 92634

Phone: 800-916-8800 / 800-680-7289

When contacting the Credit Reporting Agency, you should request the following:

NOTE: In order to ensure that you are issued free credit reports, we strongly encourage you to contact the agency's DIRECT LINE (listed above) for reporting fraud. We do not recommend that you order your credit report online.

Additional Measures Regarding Your Credit Reports

NOTE: If you have not reviewed your credit report before, you may see some inaccurate information or fraudulent activity that existed prior to any recent, suspected identity fraud.

Step 2: Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently

Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company with which you are closing an account. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.

If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or on fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions:

Step 3: File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place

It is important to report identity theft to your local law enforcement as soon as you become aware of being a victim. Get a copy of the incident report. You may need copies of the incident report when notifying creditors.

Step 4: Contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline

If you are the victim of a stolen Social Security number, the SSA can provide information on how to report the fraudulent use of your number and how to correct your earnings record. We encourage you to contact the Fraud Hotline immediately once you suspect identity theft. The web site also provides tips on using and securing your Social Security number. Visit the SSA web site for advice on keeping your number safe.

Social Security Administration

SSA Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271

Step 5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victims' complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.

You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

Federal Trade Commission


How to protect yourself

Almost everyone will be approached by a scammer at some stage. Some scams are very easy to spot while other scams may appear to be genuine offers or bargains. Scams can even take place without you doing anything at all.

Most scams need you to do something before they can work. You may send money to someone based on a promise that turns out to be false. You may give your personal details to people who turn out to be scammers. Some scams rely on you agreeing to deals without getting advice first or buying a product without checking it out properly.

The simple tips below will help you protect yourself and your family from scams. Scams can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress. By following these simple tips, you can protect yourself against scams.

Golden Rules:

Digging a little deeper

Sending or transferring money

Dealing with a face-to-face approach

Telephone traps

Dealing with suspicious or unsolicited offers sent by email or SMS

Internet tips

Protecting your business