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Keeping Families Safe: Identity Theft

Identity Thief and Social Security cardIdentity theft occurs when someone gains access to your personal information, such as your social security number, and begins to use it to open accounts, get tax refunds or access bank accounts for financial gain.

Each of these offenses can do serious damage to your credit, finances, and reputation. To minimize the risk of you or your family becoming a target, review the following information to safeguard your identity. If you become a victim of identity theft, please contact your local police department and report the crime to the organizations listed below.

Warning Signs 

  • Unknown purchases or withdrawals from your bank account.
  • Stop receiving bills or other mail.
  • Businesses stop accepting your checks.
  • Receive calls from debt collectors or medical providers.
  • Unfamiliar accounts or changes to your credit report.
  • Receive a notice that your information was compromised as part of a data breach.

What To Do 

If someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, follow the steps below to start your recovery process:   

  1. Contact companies where the fraud occurred.
    1. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts.
    2. Change logins, passwords, and PIN numbers for your accounts.
  2. Place a free fraud alert from one of the following national credit bureaus.
    1. Equifax: 1-877-576-5734
    2. Experian: 1-88-397-3742
    3. Transunion: 1-800-680-7289
  3. To request a FREE annual credit report call 1-877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also mail a request to: Central Source LLC, P.O Box 105283, Atlanta, GA 30348-5283.
  4. Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-438-4338 or online at IdentityTheft.gov

Prevention Tips:

Keep personal information secure at home.

  • Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home; make sure your information is secure from visitors or workers who come into your home. 
  • Shred documents no longer in use that include personal information such as your full name, address, phone number, social security number, bank information, travel plans, etc.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements carefully and frequently.
  • Active duty service members can contact a credit bureau to request an active duty alert, these last one year.

Keep personal information secure in public.

  • Limit what you carry! When you go out, take only what you need like an ID, driver’s license, and credit card.
  • Before you share information at your workplace, your child’s school, a doctor’s office or a business, ask why they need it.
  • Take outgoing mail directly to the post office or post office collection boxes, and promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox.
  • Destroy labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health insurance information with others, especially those offering free health services or products.

Limit the use of personal information online.

  • Be wary of using public or free Wi-Fi. If you need to regularly access public Wi-Fi, consider getting a VPN or personal hotspot so your information is protected.
  • Avoid emails with files, links, unsolicited surveys, or programs from strangers. Clicking on any of these could expose your system to malware.
  • Don’t use an automatic login feature to save your username and password; always log off completely, especially on a public computer.

Check credit reports annually.

Identity thieves target those who don’t regularly check or report unusual activity on their credit reports, including children, seniors, and members of the military. A child’s social security number can provide a clean slate for criminals to use.

  • In addition to their own, parents should monitor their child’s credit report for inconsistencies.
  • To request a FREE annual credit report call 1-877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also mail a request to: Central Source LLC, P.O Box 105283, Atlanta, GA 30348-5283.

Statistics

  • The FTC received more than 444,602 reports of identity theft in 2018. 1
  • Arizona had 8,853 reports of identity theft, accounting for 15% of all fraud reports. 1
  • Credit card fraud accounted for 30% of all identity theft reports. 1
  • Other types of identity theft included employment or tax related fraud, phone or utilities and bank fraud were the most common types of identity theft. 1

Resources: 

More information: 

Sources: 

  1. Federal Trade Commission. “2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data.” Accessed November, 2019.  https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/consumer-sentinel-network-data-book-2018/consumer_sentinel_network_data_book_2018_0.pdf