Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Identity Theft is a growing problem across the nation and also here in Gaston County. The Gaston County Police Department has compiled the following information in hopes that the information will help you avoid becoming a victim of this type of crime.
- Protect your personal information. Think about what you are putting in the trash.
- Buy a paper shredder and use it on papers that may contain names, addresses, or account numbers.
- Don't leave bills or bank statements in your mailbox. Drop off bills at the Post Office.
- Cancel credit cards you don't use and don't carry extra cards in your wallet.
- Destroy (shred) pre-approved credit card solicitations.
- Don't carry your Social Security Card, birth certificate, or passport with you.
- Don't have your Social Security Number, telephone number, or other unnecessary information printed on checks.
- Pick up new checks at the bank.
- Don't use birth-date or Social Security Number as password or PIN
- Monitor your bank and credit card statements. Check your credit report for any irregularities.
Consider These Numbers
- Between 500,000 and 700,000 people will be victimized by identity thieves this year.
- Identity theft and fraud account for more than $2 billion in losses each year.
- Victims will spend two or more years removing an average of $18,000 in fraudulent charges from their credit reports.
- The Social Security Administration received more than 30,000 complaints about the misuse of Social Security Numbers last year.
- A U.S. Consumer League Study reports 6 million Internet users have been victims of credit card related fraud or unauthorized use.
- The non-profit consumer advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, estimates that over 1000 people per day deal with trying to repair their credit after having their identities taken and misused by thieves.
- For about $49, several websites boast they can obtain anyone's social security number.
What Do I Do If I Become A Victim?
Often victims of identity theft are unaware that they are being victimized until they receive notices from credit card companies or collection agencies. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) has set up a toll free hotline that consumers can use to report identity theft. The FTC offers the services of trained counselors who will help victims begin the long and often costly task of clearing their names. The FTC toll free number is 1-877-438-4338. The following are recommended steps to follow if you are a victim of identity theft.
- Notify the police, banks, loan agencies, and creditors. Get a copy of the police report and keep a record for all contacts with legal and financial institutions.
- Ask creditors to call in an alert if any new charges are added.
- Cancel all credit cards, bank accounts, PINs and passwords.
- Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-269-0271 to report fraud.
- Call the major credit reporting agencies (see table) and ask them to attach a fraud alert and victim's statement to their report.
- If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken or debts incurred by a thief, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of Identity Theft. Ask how your name can be cleared.
- If bank accounts were set up fraudulently or checks were stolen, contact check verification agencies.
Check Verification Agencies
How Identity Theft Occurs
Identity Thieves use various methods, but some of the more common methods include:
- Stealing mail that includes bank and credit card statements, utility bills, tax information, and pre-approved credit cards offers.
- Purse snatching and pick pocketing wallets.
- "Dumpster diving" where the thief sorts through trash to find letters, financial statements, etc. containing personal information and account numbers.
- Illegally obtaining an individual's Credit Report.
- Sending false internet messages to dupe users into giving passwords and other personal information.
- Setting up phony telemarketing schemes in order to elicit information from consumers.
- Hacking into computer systems and gaining access to personal information in databases of governments, employers, banks, and credit bureaus.
- Using "sniffer" or "signal analysis" software that intercepts personal information such as account numbers, passwords, addresses, etc. being sent over networks.
- Lurking around ATMs and telephone booths in order to see PIN numbers as they are being entered. Some thieves stand a distance away and use binoculars, others, called "shoulder surfers," simply stand and look over someone's shoulder.
An identity theft occurs when someone uses key personal information about you in fraudulent ways. With nothing more than a name and Social Security Number, an identity theft can:
- Open new credit cards in a victim's name and run up charges on the account.
- Use counterfeit checks or debit cards to drain bank accounts.
- Open new bank accounts and write bad checks.
- Buy cars or property by taking out loans in victim's name.
- Rent apartments and establish utilities.
- Commit crimes using false identities to mislead law enforcement.
- File for bankruptcy to avoid paying debts incurred under the false identity.
|Credit Reporting Agencies|
P.O. Box 740250
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 4790
Fullerton, CA 92634
|Order Credit Report
(free to identiry
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 2104
Allen TX 75013
|Opt out for Credit,
Credit Card Offers
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39238
|You may also contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Line at 1-800-269-0271.|
In addition to basic information such as a person's name, address, and Social Security Number, Identity Thieves also look for and use:
- Driver's License Numbers
- Bank Cards
- Telephone Calling Cards
- Birth Certificates
- To file a report with the Gaston County Police, call 704-866-3300.
Information in this brochure partially obtained from the Regional Organized Crime Information Center Special Publication on Identity Theft.