Credit Card and Identity Theft
Don't be a target for identity theft! Protect yourself!
Credit card fraud costs consumers about $1 billion each year. All a thief needs to steal an identity is your name, address, social security number, and date of birth. All of this information is easily obtained from driver's licenses and/or checking accounts.
Minimize information in phone books:
A great deal of personal information is listed in telephone or organization directories. Consider:
- An unlisted phone number.
- Listing only your name, phone number, and not your address.
(List only your initials and avoid Dr., Atty. or other professional indicators.)
Use a computer generated driver's license number: Only use your Social Security Number as an identification number for its intended Social Security purposes, not as a driver's license number. Obtain a computer-generated Kansas driver's license number. Remember, a driver's license has all of the information a thief needs to steal your identity. Carefully protect copies of your driver's license and license number!
Minimize identifying information on personal checks: Forego convenience, and reduce information preprinted on personal checks. Consider debit cards when possible. Avoid recording identification information on self-carboning checks.
Beware of pre-approved credit offers: Pre-approved credit applications provide information thieves with your identity and instant credit opportunities. Credit-reporting agencies routinely sell your name to financial institutions that solicit new credit applicants. Consumer Reports (Sept. 1997) suggests consumers call Equifax, (888) 567-8688; Experian, (800) 353-0809; and Trans Union, (888) 567-8688 to prohibit the sale of your name and address to these financial institutions. Shred or destroy ALL of these offers. Identity thieves go through mailboxes and trash for discarded pre-approved credit applications.
Minimize Credit Card Accounts: Close any stagnant or unnecessary credit card accounts. Do not just shred your credit cards, but correspond directly with the credit-card company when closing an account. Maintain only one credit account, if possible. Closely monitor billing statements and immediately report any inappropriate billing.
Remove your name from solicitation lists: File formal requests to have your name and address removed from mail and telephone solicitation lists. Written requests can be sent to:
- Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735
- Telephone Preference Services
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Do not release information by phone or Internet: Don't give credit-card numbers or other personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact and you have a business relationship with the company.
Carefully select and closely guard your passwords: Your mother's maiden name is not a protected password. Identity thieves can easily obtain a maiden name from a birth certificate, which is a public record. Do not use your phone numbers or address numbers as passwords. Do not keep passwords in things such as a planner or purse and do not share passwords with others. If possible, change passwords annually.
Shred everything: Before discarding any documents, which list personal information, shred them. Examples include:
- pre-approved credit applications
- canceled checks
- payroll check stubs
- credit card receipts
- mail order offers
- any other personal information
Conduct annual credit report checks: Order a biannual credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting agencies. These reports list personal data, including loans and brokerage accounts. If your identity is stolen, credit bureaus suggest installing a fraud alert on all your credit files. This should prompt creditors to call you before they open a new account. Also, file a police report any time you are a fraud or theft victim. Copies of your credit report can be obtained by calling:
- Equifax, 1-800-685-1111.
- Experian, 1-800-787-6864.
- Trans Union, 1-800-916-8800.
Costs for these reports range from $8 to $49.
For more information about safety tips, contact Captain Robert Gibson at 588-5030 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.