Personal information can be vulnerable to theft and misuse, with identity theft now one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States.
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to obtain and misuse your personal information, using information such as your birthdate and Social Security number to exploit your existing accounts or open new accounts in your name. Clearing your name of fraudulent charges can take both time and money. Being educated on ways to prevent and handle identity theft should it occur will help you avoid being a victim of this crime.
There are a number of steps you can take to help avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Examine your financial statements. Save check stubs, credit, debit and ATM receipts. Shred them when you no longer need them.
- Report discrepancies between your records and monthly statements to the appropriate company.
- Do not carry more credit cards than you will use, your Social Security card, or other nonessential information. Don't give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary and for a legitimate purpose.
- Destroy blank checks from closed accounts and expired credit cards.
- Guard your purse or wallet. Thieves often target unoccupied vehicles, unlocked office areas, and health club locker rooms.
- Shred or tear up preapproved credit card offers before you throw them away.
- Check your mail. If you haven't received any mail in several days, you may be the victim of mail diversion fraud.
- Order a copy of your credit report each year from one of the major credit bureaus. You may order a free credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Place passwords on credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Try to use different passwords for different accounts.
- Secure personal information at home.
- Ask about information security procedures in your workplace.
- Don't give out sensitive information on the phone, through mail, or online unless self-initiated. Before revealing personal information, ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others.
- Be wary of promotional scams.
- Don't keep your personal identification numbers (PINs) or access codes with your credit and debit cards.
- Take precautions to secure all personal information stored in your computer.
Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit.
File a police report with the local police or police in the community where the identity theft took place. Obtain a copy of the written report as proof for creditors.
Close accounts that are known or believed to be tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Contact MSUFCU to put a hold on stolen checks and Visa Credit and Debit Cards.
Contact the three major credit bureaus to report the fraud. Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file.
Request a credit report and notify the credit bureau of discrepancies.
Call all of your credit card companies and let them know you are a victim of identity fraud. Request new cards and account numbers.
Contact the U.S. Postal Office if your mail was stolen.
Keep a record of all correspondence with people at credit bureaus, the police, and financial institutions.
To report your Social Security number being used by someone else, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338.