Protecting your Identity

Some 500,000 to 700,000 Americans a year are at risk of having their identities stolen, according to government and private sector estimates. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to establish credit, borrow money, charge items or even commit crimes in your name.

While the incidence of internet identity theft is growing, fraud experts agree that you still are more likely to become a victim of this federal crime by more traditional means, such as improperly discarding credit card or other financial data.

Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming an ID theft victim and what to do should you be stung by one of these thieves.

Tips to Protect Your Identity

  • Never respond to unsolicited requests for your social security number (SSN) or financial data
  • Before discarding, shred credit card, ATM receipts and any pre-approved credit offers you have received but do not plan to use.
  • Check all credit card and bank statements for accuracy.
  • Avoid easy to figure out access and personal identification numbers (PINs).
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report at least annually and check it for accuracy.
  • Use only secure Web sites when making online purchases. Addresses of secure pages begin with "https" instead of the standard "http" and should display a locked padlock icon somewhere on your browser.

If You Become a Victim of ID Theft

If you find you have become a victim of identity theft, immediately take the following actions:

  • File a police report.
  • Contact your bank(s).
  • Notify all of those with whom you have a financial relationship.
  • Notify credit bureau fraud units.
  • Place a fraud alert statement on your credit report.
  • Request bi-monthly copies of your credit report until your case is resolved (Free to fraud victims).
  • Report check theft to check verification companies.
  • Check post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
  • Follow-up contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence.

Remain Alert

Suspect identity theft if you are denied credit for no apparent reason or if routine financial statements stop arriving in a timely manner.

Victim Resources

We have compiled three very useful documents that you should use if you ever find that you are a victim of identity theft.