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Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when a thief obtains and illegally uses identifying information, such as a Social Security number (SSN), credit card or checking account numbers, to open new credit accounts and apply for loans in your name.   An ID thief often is someone you know who strikes by redirecting mail, stealing sales receipts, or shoulder surfing—peeking over people’s shoulders while they’re at the ATM. Technology just expands the opportunities.

Spoofing, spamming, and phishing

Identity thieves aren’t only picking sales receipts and credit card offers out of trash cans to steal your
information. They’re using highly technical methods.

They spoof, spam, and phish.

Spoofers create a replica of an existing Web page to fool a user into submitting personal, financial, or
password data. Make sure the Web sites you visit show a padlock on your browser window—the padlock signifies the use of SSL (secure sockets layer) technology. By convention, URLs (uniform resource locators) that require a safe connection start with https:

Spammers send unsolicited e-mail indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals, or newsgroups.
These e-mails include advertisements, viruses, and hoaxes.

Phishers create and use e-mails and Web sites— designed to look like e-mails and Web sites of wellknown legitimate businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies—to deceive users into
disclosing financial institution and account information or other personal data such as usernames and

Preventing identity theft

  • Before revealing personal financial information, find out whom you’re dealing with, how the information will be used, and if it will be shared with others.
  • Only give your SSN when it’s absolutely necessary.  Ask if you can use another identifier, such as a driver’s license, instead. And don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet unless you need it that day.

    Social Security Number Advice
    You are required to provide your SSN for:
    Credit unions/banks
    Income tax records
    Medical records
    Credit bureau reports
    College records
    Loan applications
    Vehicle registrations

    You can and may want to refuse to provide
    your SSN in these situations:
    As driver’s license number (in most states)
    On personal checks
    Over the phone
    On club memberships
    On address labels
    As identification for store purchases/refunds
    As general identification

  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place and either shred them or tear them up when you don’t need them anymore. Dispose of checking/share draft copies and statements, receipts with a credit card imprint, insurance forms, expired credit cards, savings and investment account statements, and credit card offers the same way.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each credit-reporting agency every year. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) of 2003 requires each major credit bureau to provide one free credit report annually to consumers who request a copy visit

    Experian:  (888)397-3742                                      
    P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

    :  (888)766-0008 or (800)525-6285            
    P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

    Transunion:  (800)680-7289                                   
    Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

  • Verify that your credit report is accurate and that it includes only activities you’ve authorized.
  • Look over your credit card and credit union statements each month for unauthorized charges or suspicious activity.
  • Photocopy financial cards and insurance cards you carry in your wallet (front and back) and keep copies in a safe place; if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can promptly and accurately report the loss.
  • Consider the information you’re supplying on entries to win a car, shopping spree, and so on. To win, information such as your age or income range usually is not necessary.
  • Contact the U.S. Postal Service if you don’t receive mail for a few days. You want to confirm that your mail—with, say all those credit card offers—hasn’t been diverted by a thief filling out a change of address form in your name.