- An identity thief may pick through your trash to capture your personal information. Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, checks and bank statements, expired credit cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.
- Don’t carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.
- Carry only the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you’ll actually need.
- Don’t use your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, or similar series of numbers as a password for anything.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bill doesn’t arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his or her tracks.
- Cancel all credit cards that you have not used in the last six months.
- Be wary of promotional scams.
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.
- Secure your mailbox. Thieves search mailboxes for pre-approved credit offers, bank statements, tax forms, or convenience checks.
- Order your credit report at least once a year. Reports should be obtained from all three major sources: Equifax at 800-685-1111; Experian at 883-397-3742; or TransUnion at 800-680-4213.
- In writing, correct all mistakes on your credit report.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge.
- The bureau numbers to report fraud are:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, PO Box 740241 Atlanta, GA, 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-397-3742, PO Box 9532, Allen, TX, 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289, PO Box 6790 Fullerton,CA, 92384-6790
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Keep all copies of correspondence or forms you send. Follow up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested. Write down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the conversation occurred. Keep the originals of supporting documentation, like police reports and letters to and from creditors; send copies only.
- Save all documentation. Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy of the report. You may need it to validate your claims to creditors. If you can’t get a copy, at least get the report number.
- File a complaint with the FTC, visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1/ or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline: toll-free 1-877-438-4338 or write:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them.