December - Identity Theft
Holidays are a prime time for identity theft.
Identity Theft occurs when someone wrongfully uses your personal identification to obtain credit, loans, services, even rentals and mortgages in your name. They may even commit crimes while impersonating you!
Also know that these protective measures will not guarantee that a criminal will not get access to your credit from a "less than cautious" credit grantor.
There are many ways to steal private information about you (i.e., anyone who has access to your social security number and other identifying information). All of these offices have your information: your doctor, accountant, lawyer, loan officer, health insurance, schools, courts, etc.
In addition, here are some other things that you should do to protect your privacy, which will help to reduce the risk of Identity Theft.
- Buy a cross-cut type shredder. Shred all your important papers and especially pre-approved credit applications received in your name and other financial information that provides access to your private information. Do not forget to shred your credit card receipts.
- Be careful of "Dumpster Diving." Make sure that you do not throw anything away that someone could use to become you. Anything with your identifiers must be shredded (cross-cut) before throwing away.
- Be careful at ATM's and using Phone Cards. "Shoulder Surfers" can get your "Pin Number" and get access to your accounts.
- Get all of your checks delivered to your bank - not to your home address.
- Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. Drop them off at a U.S. mailbox or the U.S. Post Office. Mail theft is common. It is easy to change the name of the recipient on the check with an acid wash.
- When you order new credit cards in the mail, or your previous ones have expired, watch the calendar to make sure that you get the card within the appropriate time. If it is not received by a certain date, call the credit card grantor immediately and find out if the card was sent. Find out if a change of address was filed if you do not receive the card or a billing statement.
- Cancel all credit cards that you do not use or have not used in six months. Thieves use these very easily - open credit is a prime target.
- Put passwords on all your accounts and do not use your mother's maiden name. Make up a fictitious word.
- Get a post office box or a locked mailbox, if you possibly can.
- Ask all financial institutions, doctors' offices, etc., what they do with your private information and make sure that they shred it and protect your information. Tell them why.
- Empty your wallet of all extra credit cards and social security numbers, etc. Do not carry any identifiers you do not need. Do not carry your birth certificate, social security card, or passport, unless necessary.
- Memorize social security numbers and passwords.
- When a person calls you at home or at work, and you do not know this person, never give out any of your personal information. If they tell you they are a credit grantor of yours, call them back at the number that you know is the true number, and ask for that party to discuss personal information. Provide only information that you believe is absolutely necessary.
- Do not put your social security number on your checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your social security number, give them an alternate number and tell them why. They do not need that to identify you. If a government agency requests your social security number, there must be a privacy notice accompanying the request.
- Do not put your telephone number on your checks.
- Get credit cards and business cards with your picture on them.
- Do not put your credit card account number on the Internet (unless it is encrypted on a secured site.) Do not put account numbers on the outside of envelopes, or on your checks.
- When you are asked to identify yourself at schools, employers, or any other kind of institutional identification, ask to have an alternative to your social security number.
- In conjunction with a credit card sale, do not put your address, telephone number, or driver's license number on the statement.
- Monitor all your bank statements from every credit card every month. Check to see if there is anything that you do not recognize and call the credit grantor to verify that it is truly yours.
- Order your credit report at least twice a year (I have enclosed the addresses for you on the sample letter.) Review it carefully. If you see anything that appears fraudulent, immediately put a fraud alert on your reports by calling the numbers below.
This information is courtesy of the City of Santa Clarita's Emergency Management Office.