How to prevent, report and repair ID theft
To protect yourself from becoming a victim:
- Don't carry a checkbook. Pay by cash or credit card.
- Don't carry your Social Security card with you or use your Social Security number as your driver's license number.
- Buy a paper shredder. Shred any documents listing your Social Security number and other financial information such as your bank account numbers and credit card numbers. This is the number one way of preventing identity theft.
If someone has taken your identity and is cashing your checks or using your credit cards, you should:
Report the situation immediately to your bank or credit card company. You may not have monetary liability because forgery and/or fraud is involved, but you will want the companies to be aware of the problem, as this is something that could affect your credit. In addition, follow these instructions to fully protect yourself:
- Contact all three credit bureaus and issue a fraud alert. Check your credit report six months later and look for items you don't recognize.
- Provide a copy of your driver's license to each agency's fraud unit in order to register an affidavit.
- Contact the proper authorities in writing, via certified receipt request.
- Inform your local police department, Social Security Administration and all creditors with whom you have accounts.
Credit bureau phone numbers:
SSA Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271
If a thief steals your identity and begins racking up debt:
Contact the fraud units of the three credit reporting agencies. Request that your account be flagged and add a victim's statement saying, "MY ID has been used to fraudulently apply for credit. Call me at this number to verify all applications." Find out how long the fraud alert will be posted and how to extend it if you need to. Check your credit report and look for items you don't recognize.
- Contact your credit card companies and financial institutions to report the fraud. Get new cards, have old accounts closed with a memo stating that the account has been closed at the customer's request. Follow up in writing.
- Call the police and get the crime on record, then get a copy of the police report. Keep a log of all conversations including date, name, phone number and the information provided.
- Notify the Federal Trade Commission, which keeps a database of identity thefts. Phone: (877) FTC-HELP; Address: FTC, CRC-40, Washington D.C. 20580.
- Notify you bank and if necessary, cancel checking and savings accounts and get new account numbers. Request a password that may be used in every transaction. Get a new ATM card, account number and password. Don't use your SS # or birthdate as a password.
- Don't pay any bill or part of a bill resulting from identity theft.