Ways to Prevent Identify Theft.
To avoid becoming a victim of identity thieves, there are many preventative actions you can take. Follow the steps below to reduce your chances of identity theft:
1. Protect your social security number.
- Never give your social security number over the phone, via text message, or in e-mail.
- Do not carry your social security card in your wallet.
- Secure or shred any documents that contain your social security number or other sensitive personal information.
2. Protect your incoming and outgoing mail.
- Put all outgoing mail in an actual post office mailbox instead of your home mailbox.
- Shred all pre-approved credit offer letters and mail that contains your personal information.
- Keep waste receptacles in a secure location.
3. Protect your computer.
- Install up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer.
- Do not click on links, attachments, or open e-mails from unknown senders.
- Never send sensitive personal information via e-mail, text message, or over the phone.
4. Protect your debit card and Personal Identification Code (PIN).
- Never disclose your debit/credit card number or PIN over the phone.
- If you receive an automated phone call stating your card or account has been suspended, do not respond.
- Report any suspicious calls regarding your account to your bank.
Ways to Detect Identity Theft.
In the unfortunate circumstance of identity theft, the sooner you discover that your personal information has been compromised, the better. By acting quickly, you can reduce the amount of money that may be stolen and it becomes less difficult to repair the damage.
Here are some simple steps to you can take to watch for identity theft:
- Review your bank and credit card statements every month to ensure they do not contain unauthorized charges. If you do not recognize a charge, call the bank and/or credit card company immediately.
- View your full credit report at least twice annually and check for discrepancies.
How to Guard Against Identity Theft:
- Obtain a free credit report and review for any inaccurate information.
- If you bank online, check your deposit accounts and lines of credit frequently to spot and report errors or fraudulent transactions, just as you should with traditional banking.
- Never give your Social Security number, credit or debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs) or any other confidential information in response to an unsolicited e-mail, text message or phone call, no matter who the source supposedly is.
- Don’t open attachments or click on links in unsolicited e-mails from anyone you don’t know or you otherwise aren’t sure about.
- Watch out for “Scareware” of sudden pop-up windows asking for personal information or warning of a virus.
- When shopping online, deal with reputable merchants and be wary of unbelievably low prices.
- Make sure your full credit card number and expiration date does not appear on receipts.
- Do not leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. Take it to the Post Office or collection box.
- Shred credit card receipts, statements and applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank statements and checks, credit card offers you receive in the mail and expired credit cards.
- Minimize the amount of financial information you carry. Memorize PIN numbers and passwords instead of carrying them with you.
Tips For Securing Your Computer:
- Virus protection software should be updated regularly, and patches for your operating system and other software programs should be installed to protect against intrusions and infections that can lead to the compromise of your computer files or passwords. Most Internet Service Providers will allow you to download antivirus and privacy protection software for free. Check your service provider’s website for details.
- Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or T-1 that leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. The firewall program will allow you to stop uninvited access to your computer. Without it, hackers can gain entry into your computer, access the personal information stored on it, or use it to commit other crimes.
- Do not open files sent to you by strangers, click on hyperlinks, or download programs from people you don't know. Be careful about using file-sharing programs. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program known as "spyware," which could capture your passwords or any other information as you type it into your keyboard.
- Use a secure browser – software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet – to guard your online transactions. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer. You also can download some browsers for free over the Internet. When submitting information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
- Don’t log into your bank account while using public computers, such as at a library, or with free wireless connections at coffee shops and similar places. Criminals often try to intercept Internet traffic, including passwords, from these locations.
- Choose “strong” user IDs and passwords that will be easy for you to remember but hard for hackers to guess. The strongest ones have a combination of letters, numbers and other characters, and are at least 10 characters long. For your online banking, choose IDs and passwords that are not the same as those you use for e-mails or social networking sites. Also, it is wise to change your online banking password about every 90 days.
- Protect yourself from fraudulent websites. For example, watch out for copycat websites that deliberately use a name or web address very similar to, but not the same as, that of a real financial institution. The intent is to lure you into their site and then have you provide your personal information, such as your account number and password.
- Before you dispose of a computer, destroy all the personal information it stored. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands or reformatting your hard drive may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer's hard drive, where they may be retrieved easily. Use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
Identity Theft Reporting Resources:
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Illinois Attorney General: 800-964-3013
U.S. Federal Trade Commission: 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
Office of the Attorney General Identity Theft Hotline: 866-999-5630
Social Security Administration: 800-269-0271.
Free Annual Credit Report:
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you feel you may have been a victim of Identity Theft, please call our Customer Care Team at 800-794-2070.