Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing types of fraud. Identity theft, also called “account takeover fraud” or “true name fraud,” involves criminals stealing personal credit information about individuals and assuming their identities by applying for credit in their names, running up huge bills, stiffing creditors and generally wrecking victims’ credit histories. Criminals steal credit information from outside mailboxes and dumpsters, through telemarketing scams, computer hacking and paying workers in retail establishments or other institutions to copy down information about customers. Avoid becoming a victim by being a smart consumer.
Nearly one American every minute is a victim of identity theft.
The thieves don’t need much. A receipt you left behind. A bill mailed from your mailbox.
A missing check. Information provided over the Internet to strangers.
Consumers can avoid becoming victims by following some simple tips:
- Don’t give your Social Security number or other personal credit information about yourself to anyone who calls you. Criminals use this information to open new charge accounts posing as you.
- Tear up receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Criminals can collect bits of information about you by going through your trash.
- Watch for missing mail and don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up. An identity thief may steal your mail and file a change of address form with your credit card company or the U.S. Postal Service.
- Review your monthly accounts regularly for any unauthorized charges.
- Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy.
- When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active.
- Don’t open e-mail from unknown sources and use virus detection software.
- Protect your PINs and passwords and change them frequently.
Report any suspected fraud to your bank, credit card companies and the fraud units of the three credit reporting agencies immediately.
The fraud unit numbers are:
Trans Union (800) 680-7289
Experian (888) 397-3742
Equifax (800) 525-6285.
You may also contact the FTC’s ID Theft Consumer Response Center toll-free at (877) IDTHEFT.