Common methods of identity theft:
Dumpster diving. Collecting bills and personal information sources from trash bins.
Skimming. Stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Phishing. Pretending to be financial institutions or companies and sending spam or pop-up messages to solicit personal information.
Changing your address. Diverting billing statements to another location by completing a “change of address” form.
“Old-fashioned” stealing. Theft of wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. Stealing personnel records from employers, or bribing employees who have access.
Deter identity thieves:
- Shred financial documents and personal information before discarding them.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your SSN on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, mail or Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails; instead, type in a Web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your computer. Visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov for information.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birthdate, mother’s maiden name, or last four digits of your SSN.
- Keep information in a secure place, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
- Detect suspicious activity by monitoring financial accounts and billing statements.
Signs requiring immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
Inspect your financial information.
The law requires consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it. Visit www.Annual CreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228 to order your free credit reports each year.
For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/ idtheft.