Identity Theft Safety Tips

ID Theft

The following are some great safety tips on Identity Theft – thanks to some referral information from the Seattle Police Department.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It can occur when a criminal steals personal identifying information such as name, birth date, Social Security number or your mother’s maiden name and uses it for their own gain. These thefts can occur through lost or stolen credit or debit cards, non-secure online transactions, personal information recovered from your garbage, and most frequently, stolen mail from your mailbox.

BASIC SAFETY TIPS

  • Don’t carry important numbers or passwords with you.
  • Memorize your Social Security number.
  • Don’t use your date of birth as your password.
  • Never leave receipts behind.

CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS

  • Sign your new credit cards immediately.
  • Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately. Make sure you keep the numbers of the issuers somewhere besides on the back of your card!
  • Always check your monthly financial statements carefully against your receipts.
  • Review your consumer credit report annually.

MAIL

  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox for more than a day. If you are gone, arrange to have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail.
  • Double check that mailboxes are official US Postal Service collection boxes before you deposit your mail.
  • Shred or tear up all unnecessary documents that have your personal information on them.

ONLINE

  • Never put in a credit or debit card number through a website unless it offers a secure transaction.
  • A secure transaction will have a “padlock” icon at the bottom strip of the web page. Also, the URL address will change from “http” to “https” on the page where you input personal data.

DISCOVERING ID THEFT

  • Checking your financial statements frequently and carefully can be your best first step towards discovering an ID theft.
  • The sooner you discover your identity is being used, the sooner you can begin to fight back to lessen the damage the criminal can do.

REPORTING ID THEFT

  • Call the Police: To report a physical theft of your belongings, or a robbery. If immediate danger is over, you can make a report to the San Mateo Police non-emergency line: (650) 522-7700
  • Call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office: If the crime involved U.S. mail. (877) 876-2455
  • Call the U.S. Secret Service: If the crime involved counterfeit credit cards or computer hacking. (415)576-1210
  • Call the issuing credit card company: if the crime involved credit card fraud.

OTHER STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

  • Call the Federal Trade Commission 1-877-IDTHEFT: For counseling and help to resolve problems arising from this crime.
  • Call one of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion): to see if any new accounts were opened in your name without your consent. You can place a “fraud alert” on your file. Please note: If you call before you have a police incident number, the alert stays on your information for only 90 days. If you call WITH a police incident number, the alert will stay on your file for 7 years.
  • Keep a record: When you start calling agencies to report your case, keep a record of the names and phone numbers of the people you talked to, along with any supporting documentation.

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