Protecting Your Identity

Protecting Your Identity https://learningcentre.statefarm.ca/safety-2/family-1/protecting-your-identity/ bb3 Feb 20, 2011

By Staff writer State Farm™ Employee

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In today's information age, criminals have developed sophisticated methods of obtaining your personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2009, more than 1.3 million U.S. citizens registered complaints regarding some form of identity theft with the Consumer Sentinel Network. Credit card fraud, mail fraud, hacked hard drives, and compromised passwords are all forms of identity theft.

Online shopping and banking has led to more convenience for the average consumer, but that convenience also requires that you learn how to keep your personal information safe. Here's what you can do.

Credit Cards And Debit Cards

We use them often – so much that a large amount of identity theft and credit fraud centers on credit and debit cards. Here are a few simple tips that might help keep your identity safe:

  • Keep your card with you at all times.
  • Sign all new cards immediately. For additional security, in place of a signature, write "Photo ID Required," and plan to show your driver's license or other photo ID when using the card. This extra step can help protect you if the card is stolen.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately.
  • Never leave your card as a security deposit. Use your driver's license or other ID if necessary.
  • Do not loan your card or account number to another person not listed on the account.
  • Never carry your Personal Identification Number (PIN) with you or write it on the back of your card.
  • Monitor your mail closely if you are expecting a new or replacement card.
  • Photocopy the contents of your wallet, and keep the information in a safe place.
  • Always keep track of your cards, and always stay safe around ATMs.

Account Information

It's a world of online accounts, paper trails, and junk mail. How can you best protect your information?

  • Invest in a shredder if you do not already own one. Properly dispose of old receipts, monthly statements, and other sensitive documents by shredding them.
  • Do not allow a merchant to record your account number when you are paying by check.
  • Take receipts with your account number listed, for example, from restaurants or grocery stores.
  • Periodically monitor your credit report for inaccurate information, such as addresses, Social Security numbers, and accounts that aren't yours. Individuals can request a free copy of each nationwide consumer credit reporting company’s credit report once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Do not use an obvious number, such as your date of birth or phone number, for your PIN.
  • Use strong passwords for all your online accounts. Include numbers and symbols in your passwords.
  • Always notify your bank and other credit issuers with change of address or phone number, and have a fraud alert placed on your name and Social Security number.
  • If you do notice fraudulent charges on one of your credit cards, notify your credit provider immediately. Federal law protects you against your credit card charges greater than $50.  Sending a letter through certified mail within 60 days of seeing the charges will help guarantee this protection.

If You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Even if you've done your best to protect your identity, you're never completely safe.

If you do fear your identity has been stolen, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the three major credit bureaus immediately. Below is the contact information:

Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Tel: 1-877-IDTHEFT

Trans Union
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Tel: 1-800-680-7289

Experian
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
Tel: 1-888-397-3742

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Tel: 1-800-525-6285

More Resources

The Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC) is a cooperative initiative of the financial services industry that provides free victim assistance service for customers of member companies. ITAC walks the identity theft victim through his or her credit report to find suspicious activity, notifies the affected creditors, and places fraud alerts with the credit bureaus. ITAC also shares information with law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission.

ITAC is part of an ongoing effort by the financial services industry to address and reduce the human and economic consequences of fraud and identity theft.

If an account is opened or used in your name without your permission, use the ID Theft Affadavit form to notify the company or institution that holds the account. This form will help you provide proof that you did not create or authorize the activity and will help ensure that you are not held financially responsible.

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