What is Identity Theft?
While there are different variations of identity theft, it is essentially the act of using another person’s identity to commit fraud or theft. Without a person’s knowledge, identity thieves will obtain names, addresses, Social Security numbers, financial institution account numbers, and other personal information. With this type of information, identity thieves can take over a another person’s financial accounts, apply for loans, credit cards and other services, purchase vehicles, cell phones, and so on.
Identity thieves will use a variety of tactics to obtain this personal information. Examples include:
- Stealing personal property, like wallets, purses and mail that may contain personal information.
- Rummaging through your garbage at home or work to find enough personal information to hijack your identity.
- Tricking you into disclosing personal information through phone scams, via the mail, or on the Internet.
- Obtaining your financial information by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for and a legal right to the information.
How can you minimize your risk?
There are ways that you can minimize your risk of identity theft. Examples include:
- Be particularly careful about your Social Security Number; it is an important key to your identity, especially in credit reports and computer databases. Do not keep your Social Security Card on you; leave it in a safe place.
- Make copies of all the personal identification documents in your purse/wallet. This will help you keep track of important account numbers and phone numbers so you are able to take immediate action.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus every year. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Make sure you did in fact authorize the transactions that have been reported
- Pay attention to your billing cycle. If credit card or utility bills fail to arrive, contact the companies to ensure that they have not been illicitly redirected.
- Minimize the risk. Be careful about sharing personal information or letting it circulate freely. When you are asked to provide personal information, ask how it will be used, why it is needed, who will be sharing it and how it will be safeguarded.
What do you do if your identity has been stolen?
If you think your identity has been stolen, follow the following steps:
- Immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or www.ftc.gov and file a complaint.
- Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.
- Contact a First Community Bank Representative immediately to close any of your bank accounts that may be at risk. Cancel any additional accounts or credit cards that may be at risk.
- File a police report then submit that report to creditors so they have proof of a crime.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790