Steps You Can Take to Prevent & Report Identity Theft
Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to take your hard-earned money away from you. These criminals will try many tactics to trick you into giving up your account information or personal information. This can lead to your money and/or identity being stolen, crimes that can cost you valuable time and money.
There are ways for you to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one of these crimes.
- Never give out your Social Security number, account number, or personal information through the phone, email, or text message to someone you don’t know or trust.
- Closely track your statements. If there are mistakes or you notice bills aren’t arriving at their normal time, it could mean there’s a problem.
- Shred all mail with your personal information and account information on it.
- Notify the post office to hold your mail before going on vacation or out of town.
- Do not carry your Social Security card or passport unless you need to.
Reporting Fraud & Identity Theft
If you believe you have been a victim of Identity Theft, there are several steps you’ll need to take.
1. Flag Your Credit Report: You’ll need to get in touch with one of the three national credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—and have them place a fraud alert on your report. By law, each bureau must inform the other two bureaus once an alert is reported. Your fraud alert is in effect for 90 days.
2. Order Copies of Your Credit Report: Requesting a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus allows you to find errors more quickly. If you see any signs of fraud, contact the bureau directly.
3. File an Identity Theft Report: In order to dispute fraudulent charges and information, and to begin the process of getting them removed from your credit report, you need to file an Identity Theft Report. To do this, you’ll need two documents.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Take the FTC complaint to your local police station, or to the police area where the theft occurred, file a police report and get a copy of the police report.
National Credit Reporting Bureaus
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Cyber Security Checklist
10 simple things you can do to help protect yourself against online criminals
1. Have computer security programs running and regularly updated to look for the latest threats. Install anti-virus software to protect against malware (malicious software) that can steal information such as account numbers and passwords, and use a firewall to prevent unauthorized access to your computer.
2. Be smart about where and how you connect to the Internet for banking or other communications involving sensitive personal information. Public Wi-Fi networks and computers at places such as libraries or hotel business centers can be risky if they don’t have up-to-date security software.
3. Get to know standard Internet safety features. For example, when banking or shopping online, look for a padlock symbol on a page (that means it is secure) and “https://” at the beginning of the Web address (signifying that the website is authentic and encrypts data during transmission).
4. Ignore unsolicited emails asking you to open an attachment or click on a link if you’re not sure it’s who truly sent it and why. Cybercriminals are good at creating fake emails that look legitimate, but can install malware. Your best bet is to either ignore unsolicited requests to open attachments or files, or to independently verify that the supposed source actually sent the email to you by making contact using a published email address or telephone number.
5. Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information. A safe strategy is to ignore unsolicited requests for information, no matter how legitimate they appear, especially if they ask for information such as a Social Security number, bank account number, or password.
6. Use the most secure process you can when logging into financial accounts. Create strong passwords that are hard to guess, change them regularly, and try not to use the same password or PIN (personal identification number) for several accounts.
7. Be discreet when using social networking sites. Criminals comb those sites looking for information such as someone’s place of birth, mother’s maiden name, or pet’s name, in case those details can help them guess or reset passwords for online accounts.
8. Be careful when using smartphones and tablets. Don’t leave your mobile device unattended. Use a device password (or other method) to control access if it’s lost or stolen.
9. Parents and caregivers should include children in their cybersecurity planning. Talk with your child about being safe online, including the risks of sharing personal information with people they don’t know. Make sure the devices they use to connect to the Internet have up-to-date security.
10. Small business owners should have security policies and training for their employees. For example, consider requiring more information beyond a password to gain access to your business network, and additional safety measures -- such as requiring confirmation calls with your financial institution before certain electronic transfers are authorized.