Catching the Facts on Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your bank account number, Social Security number, credit card, or other personal information for his or her own ends. It can be months before the theft has been discovered.
Sign your credit cards upon receipt. Only carry cards that you need. Do not carry your Social Security card. Never write your PIN or Social Security number on anything you are going to throw away. Shred documents containing your Social Security number.
Do not release personal information such as your Social Security or bank account number over the phone unless you made the phone call and understand why the information is necessary.
Obtain an annual copy of your credit report from the three main credit bureaus and ensure the material is correct.
Be aware of credit card billing cycles. If you do not receive a bill on time, contact the company. A thief charging purchases to your account would likely change your billing address, so it takes you longer to discover the fraud.
If You are Victimized
If a credit card is stolen, close the account immediately. Notify the three main credit bureaus. Put passwords (not your mother's maiden name) on any new accounts. File a report with the police in the community where the theft occurred. Keep a copy of the report in case it is needed later. If your Social Security number is being used fraudulently, notify the Social Security Administration.
Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580, 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
To report identity theft online: See the FTC consumer information page at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.
Main Credit Reporting Bureaus: Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241, (800) 525-6285; Experian, P.O. Box 9530, Allen, TX 75013, (888) 397-3742; Trans Union, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA, (800) 888-4213.
Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General: SSA Fraud Hotline, PO Box 17768, Baltimore MD 21235, 1-800-269-0271, Fax: 410-597-0118, Email: email@example.com.
See also Stolen Identity: A Consumer Nightmare.