ID Theft Action Plan
While there is no absolute way to protect yourself from having your identity stolen, CCCS-OC believes that education offers the best way to prevent identity theft. Follow our ID Theft Action Plan to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and credit card fraud:
Check Out your Credit Reports
Often, consumers don’t discover an identity thief’s activities until after a lender refuses them credit because of a poor credit report. By then, the damage has been done — and it can take months or even years to correct.
To avoid this fate, you should order a copy of all three of your reports every year and review them for errors and inaccurate information. Note any unauthorized activity, check for addresses at which you’ve never lived, and review the section that lists who has been making inquiries into your credit. You can order your reports online from these three major credit bureaus:
Guard Your Personal Information
You may not realize how easily criminals can access much of your information. Make their job harder by shredding all financial documents before discarding them. This includes bank and credit card statements, tax returns, credit offers, debit and credit card receipts, and medical records.
Carry only the identification you need, like an identification card or driver’s license. Leave passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, passwords or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), and extra checks at home in a safe and private place.
Be careful to whom you give information. Never give personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiate the contact. Find out how the information you do provide to legitimate companies will be used and who will have access to it. Insist on confidentiality.
Unfortunately, the identity thief may not be a stranger. Keep your information safe from prying roommates, invited guests, and even live-in family members by placing it in a secure and locked area. Firmly inform family members that they may not use your personal or credit information for any reason, as incorrect employment and income information could affect your Social Security benefits.
Mind your Mail
Stealing your mail is a favorite trick of identity thieves, so if your credit card or bank statement is late, contact the company and request a duplicate statement or bill. Remember that anyone living with you has easy access to your mail.
Take outgoing mail to a post office, and promptly pick up your mail once delivered.
Password Protect Your Accounts
Password protect your credit cards, bank accounts (both those accessed by phone and online), telephone, and Internet accounts. Also protect your computer documents and e-mail records with passwords.
Change your passwords frequently, and don’t use easily identifiable information like birthdays or wedding anniversaries, any portion of your Social Security number, phone number, or home address.
Get Off the Solicitation Lists
You can opt out of receiving unsolicited credit offers in the mail by contacting the following companies:
The credit bureaus offer a toll-free number that enables you to “opt-out” of having pre-approved credit offers sent to you for two years. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) for more information.
In addition, you can notify the three major credit bureaus that you do not want personal information about you shared for promotional purposes-an important step toward eliminating unsolicited mail. Send your letter to each of the three major credit bureaus:
PO Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
Marketing List Opt Out
PO Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328
The Direct Marketing Association offers the Mail and Telephone Preference Services, which allow you to reduce the amount of direct mail marketing and telemarketing you receive from many national companies for five years.
When you register with these services, your name will be put on a “delete” file that is updated four times a year-in January, April, July and October-and made available to direct-mail and telephone marketers. Two to three months after your name is entered into the quarterly file, you should notice a decrease in the number of solicitations you receive. However, your registration will not stop mailings or calls from organizations not registered with the DMA’s Mail and Telephone Preference Services.
To have your name deleted from many direct mail or telemarketing lists, send a letter to the following addresses:
For direct mail marketing:
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service
PO Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512
In addition, the DMA recently launched a new e-Mail Preference Service to help you reduce unsolicited commercial emails. To “opt-out” of receiving unsolicited commercial email, use the Direct Marketing Association’s online form at www.e-mps.org. Your online request will remain effective for one year.