Education » Articles » Protect Yourself Against Identity Fraud
Protect Yourself Against Identity Fraud
Use any of the resources below for more information or help.
"Call for Action"
Credit Bureau Fraud Line
Federal Trade Commission
Social Security Administration
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
Identity theft is the nation’s fastest growing crime. Each year thieves make off
with millions of dollars and leave behind a paper mess that can take the victim
months or years to untangle.
Learn How Identity Fraud Occurs
For identity thieves to be successful, they must obtain other people’s personal
information. And these criminals have gotten very creative in their fact-finding
methods. Thieves may:
- Sort through your mailbox and take your bank and credit card statements, preapproved
credit card offers, and tax information.
- Complete a change-of-address form to reroute your mail to another location—usually
a PO Box that they maintain under an assumed name.
- Steal your wallet or purse to obtain personal identification, credit cards, SSN,
- "Dumpster dive," rummaging through trash bins looking for discarded personal information,
such as old statements, preapproved offers, and outdated insurance cards.
- "Shoulder surf," peering over your shoulder at ATMs to capture your PIN.
- Buy your personal information from an inside source, such as a store clerk who has
access to your credit application or signed receipt.
Learn What Thieves Can Do with Your Personal Information
Once a thief has your information, they may use it for a variety of illegal actions,
- Open new credit accounts in your name but their mailing address. Some thieves max
out the account within the first month, while others pay the minimum balance due
so they can continue to use “your” credit for months without being detected.*
- Establish a phone or wireless service in your name.
- Open checking accounts in your name using a phony check, then write bad checks off
the invalid balance.
- File for bankruptcy in your name to avoid paying the debts they’ve incurred while
posing as you.
*Sometimes thieves make “booster” credit card payments, sending a phony check
to pay more than the amount due in order to inflate the spending limit. By the time
the check is returned, the inflated limit is used up and the criminal has left town.
To safeguard your credit card account, UW Credit Union watches for booster payments.
Our cardholders can also go online and set an alert on their credit card account
to notify them when a payment is applied.
Learn How to Minimize Your Risk
There are several proactive steps you can take to protect yourself against identity
- Know the date you should receive your monthly bills and statements. If one is late,
immediately call the company.
- Review your bills and statements as soon as you receive them.
- When making a purchase over the Internet, make sure the merchant has proper security
measures. If unsure, place your order over the phone.
- Be wary of unexpected emails that ask you to enter information on a linked Web
site. Sites may look official but are not.
- Close all unused card accounts and cut unwanted cards into several pieces before
disposing of them.
- Shred confidential papers before discarding them.
On the go:
- Never carry your SSN or birth certificate in your wallet.
- Don’t print your SSN, birth date, or credit card number on personal checks, and
don’t allow store clerks to write this information on your check.
- Carry as few cards with personal information as possible.
- Always take credit card receipts from cashiers. Never toss them in a public trash
- Memorize your PINs and passwords. Shield your hand when you input them to prevent
“shoulder surfers” intercepting them.
- Don’t provide personal information unless you initiate the interaction—not over
the phone, not in person, not in writing. Also make sure your family members know
not to give out information to others.
- When choosing passwords for your accounts, don’t use your mother’s maiden name,
birth date, part of your SSN, or other easily guessed word or number.
- Write a list of your credit card account numbers, including expiration dates and
company contact information. Safely store this information in case you need to report
lost or stolen cards.
- Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement annually to check for
- Order your credit report periodically and review it for accuracy.
Learn What to Do If Your Identity Information Is Stolen
Your fast action can help prevent damage. Here’s what you would need to do:
- Document names, titles, and phone numbers of everyone you talk to. This helps prove
your actions, in case a creditor fails to close an account or for restitution if
the thief is caught.
- File a police report. If your identity was stolen when you were away from home,
you may need to contact the police in that jurisdiction too. Make sure you get the
report number and investigator contact information.
- If your car or house keys were stolen, change your locks.
- Call the three major credit bureaus and have them place a fraud alert on your name
and SSN. Add a "victim’s statement" including your name, problem, and phone number.
- Contact financial institutions and credit card companies where your accounts may
be at risk. Close any affected accounts and open new ones.
- If your Social Security number has been compromised, report it to the Social Security
- If the mail was used in the fraud, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
- Change your answering machine message to say something like, "This is Sam Anderson.
Someone claiming to be me is trying to establish credit using this telephone number.
Do not grant them credit."
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the crime and obtain educational
- After a few weeks, check to see if everything is okay. Request a new credit bureau
report and look for new bank or store accounts. Check for any change-of-address
requests at the post office, or new records at the department of Motor Vehicles,
Social Security Administration and phone company.