Identity theft is a crime and occurs when your personal identifying information is stolen and then used to commit fraud and other crimes. The most common ways fraudsters steal your identity is through the use of the personal information they gather from spoof emails and websites, social engineering, stealing your mail, dumpster diving and other scams.
General Tips to Help Avoid Identity Theft
- Make your passwords as random as possible and do not use identifying information within the passwords, i.e., your birth date, phone numbers or social security number. Do not use the same password for every system you access and change your passwords frequently.
- Enroll in online banking and frequently check your accounts. If you see a suspicious item, address the issue immediately by contacting Square 1 (or the appropriate financial institution) and request an investigation.
- If you are not receiving your bills or account statements in a timely manner, or suddenly not at all, immediately call the appropriate service provider to find out why. Confirm that no one has falsely changed your address.
- Do not leave outgoing mail in your home mailbox; instead, drop it into a secure, official Postal Service collection box. Consider renting a mailbox at your local post office.
- Have your local post office stop mail delivery while you are on vacation, or ask a trustworthy neighbor to pick it up for you daily.
- Always shred important documents, such as bank statements and items containing sensitive information that you received in the mail before throwing them away. Most identity theft happens as a result of mail and garbage theft.
- If you receive financial solicitations by mail that you're not interested in, shred them before throwing them away and contact the provider to stop future solicitations.
- Consider opting out of unsolicited credit offers by contacting the provider directly or by calling the Consumer Credit Reporting Agency at 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Review your credit report at least once a year to check for inaccuracies.
- Make photocopies of important information you carry on a regular basis (driver’s license, credit cards, etc.) Store the photocopies in a secure place such as a safe deposit box for reference in the event that these items are stolen from you.
- Report lost or stolen checks, debit cards, or credit cards immediately.
- When shopping, do not leave your receipts behind on counters or at gas pumps, and do not throw them away without shredding them first.
- Know when your credit cards expire and notify the issuers promptly if replacement cards have not arrived.
- Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have outside service providers working in your home.
- Do not carry all of your personal identification and credit cards on you at all times, especially your Social Security card. Memorize your number and leave your social security card in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box.
How to Report Identity Theft
Identity theft is a serious matter. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you should immediately:
- Print and utilize the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Fact Sheet 17a: Identity Theft, What to Do if It Happens to You: https://privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm
- Contact Square 1 so that your accounts can be flagged accordingly: 866-355-0468.
- Notify the major credit bureaus and establish a "fraud alert" on your file. Once you report this to one agency, they will communicate this request to the others. The initial alert will be applied for 90 days and the alert will require creditors to contact you directly before extending any credit.
The major credit bureaus are:
Equifax 888.766.0008 www.equifax.com
Experian 888.397.3742 www.experian.com
TransUnion 800.680.7289 www.transunion.com
- Once you receive notice of your rights as an identity theft victim from the credit bureau, contact each agency to get a free copy of your credit report and extend the fraud alert to 7 years.
- Notify your local law enforcement agency to file an Identity Theft Report.