Preventing Identity Theft
It’s that time of year when your mailbox starts to fill up with sensitive information: credit card statements from those holiday purchases and tax documents from your bank and employer. That’s why it’s this time of the year that we see an increase in cases of identity theft.
Identity theft is a serious crime that happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It can disrupt your finances, credit history, your reputation and take time, money and patience to resolve. The good news is that there are ways to help prevent from becoming a victim and early warning signs that your identity may have been compromised so you can act before the damage has been done.
Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home.
Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.
Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements and expired charge cards.
Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.
When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home, unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock.
Red Flags of Identity Theft
Mistakes on your bank, credit card or other account statements
Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
Calls from debt collectors about debts that don’t belong to you
A notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security number
Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
Businesses turn down your checks
If you feel your identity has been compromised, call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days. In addition, you will need to request a copy of your credit report to review as well as create an identity theft report. More information on how to contact these agencies and create the report can be found at www.idtheft.gov.
Author: Robin Daniels
Assistant VP/Secondary Market Manager
Peoples Bank & Trust Co.