More than 400,000 people have had their lives disrupted last year by a growing "white collar" crime known as Identity Theft, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. You may have read the article recently in a local newspaper of the woman whose identification was used to secure loans and open accounts. Identity Theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and poses as you, running up charges, wiping out your accounts. It could take months or sometimes even years to discover you are a victim. For example you could be denied a loan for a mortgage or car based on a credit report that erroneously indicates that you don't pay your bills. At SnoCope, we take this potential threat very seriously. If you fall victim to losing your purse or wallet, we will assist you in closing your account and reopening with a new account number. But total security is only possible with your help.
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent identity theft:
- Do not give out personal information, such as account numbers or credit card numbers over the phone unless you have initiated the call. Only deal with established companies. Remember: If someone calls you posing as your financial institution (such as your credit union) requesting information they should already have, they shouldn't need to request it over the phone!
- Report lost or stolen checks immediately. Examine new checks to make sure none were stolen during shipping, and store them in a safe location.
- Destroy unused financial solicitations before discarding them, as well as other financial documents, statements and receipts.
- Guard your PIN for your ATM card and do not leave your receipt when using an ATM.
- Make sure your mailbox is secure and promptly remove mail when it has been delivered. Do not leave outgoing mail in a mailbox that has road access.
- Contact the major credit reporting companies annually to review your file. A copy of your report is available for a small fee. The three major credit bureaus are:
- Equifax: 800-685-1111
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 800-916-8800
If you have been a victim of identity theft, or know someone who has, take these steps immediately:
- Contact your credit union to protect your accounts
- Contact your credit and debit card suppliers
- Contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271
- Contact the FTC Identity Theft Hotline: 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)