Identity theft and identity fraud are crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses someone else's personal information. Identity theft includes credit card fraud, utilities fraud, and bank fraud. The following suggestions can help protect your identity and credit.
The most commonly reported theft is credit card fraud. Many credit card schemes include the creation of a new account using your personal information or alterations to an existing account originally created by the true customer. To protect yourself, keep your personal information safe, such as social security and credit card numbers, and shred unwanted credit card applications.
Another area vulnerable to identity theft is phone or utilities fraud. Many consumers have reported that their information has been used by someone else in order to create new utility accounts, particularly for cellular phones. Never give anyone permission to put their utility bill in your name. If you are relocating, remember to transfer or cancel service and follow up later to make sure all old accounts are closed.
Bank fraud includes the use false information to create a new account or use of an already existing account without the consent of the account holder. Report lost or stolen cards or checks and keep account numbers safe. Also, never tell anyone you personal identity number (PIN).
Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, financial account numbers and other identifying information.
Sometimes an identity thief can strike even when you've been very careful. One of the best ways to catch identity theft is to regularly check your credit history. Order your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year and make sure all the information is correct. Also, follow up with creditors if your bills do not arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
Equifax - To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285
Experian - To order your report or to report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion - To order your report, call: 1-800-916-8800 To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289
If you believe you have become a victim of identity theft, contact the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.