Identity Theft may be the fastest growing crime in America, with some estimates that one in five consumers are affected*. In the age of the Internet, your sensitive information is more accessible to scam artists than ever before.
Following are tips to help you stay safe. You can learn even more at our no-cost seminars, being held in several Syracuse locations in October and November.
Basic tips to help you prevent Identity Theft:
- Carry with you only what you really need (not your Social Security card).
- Write a list of what you carry with you and keep it in a safe place, in case you need to call to freeze your accounts or report a theft.
- Shred sensitive documents.
- Never give out sensitive information over the phone or e-mail, unless you’re the one initiating the contact.
- Regularly check your bank and credit card statements for accuracy.
- Regularly review your credit report: get it free at annualcreditreport.com or with a credit counselor at Cooperative Federal.
- Get off pre-approved credit card mailing lists: call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
- Consider making your mailbox accessible only to you, and place outgoing mail in a US Postal Service blue mailbox.
- Place a security freeze on your credit file. This will prevent anyone from opening any form of credit account in your name, including you, and is the highest form of protection you can have. The freeze can be temporarily or permanently lifted by you, if you’re looking to obtain credit. To place the freeze, contact each of the credit bureaus. More information: www.nysconsumer.gov.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file. This will require creditors to contact you personally over the phone if you or anyone else attempts to obtain credit in your name. In most cases, alerts expire after 90 days, but can be applied repeatedly for free. Placing fraud alerts on your credit file is the key tactic among leading ID Theft prevention companies.
You may be a victim if:
- You learn about accounts or credit cards you didn't open
- You owe money for things you didn’t buy.
- Your credit report is inaccurate.
- You don’t receive bills or other mail.
- You are denied credit, or being offered a high interest rate, and you know your credit is good.
If you’ve been a victim:
- File a report with the local police agency and get a copy for your records.
- Contact each of the three credit reporting agencies and add a “fraud alert” to your credit report.
- Freeze or close any affected accounts or accounts opened fraudulently in your name.
- Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Do this online, or call 1-877-IDTHEFT. Ask for a copy of the report.
- Send copies of your reports to the companies where the fraudulent accounts are.
*Figure from Experian-Gallup Personal Credit Index, Oct. 2006
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