Identity Theft

How Identity Theft is Committed

  • In public places, criminals may engage in “shoulder surfing” – watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your Personal ID (PIN) or credit card number.
  • Utilizing your debit or credit card at a business that provides open Wi-Fi to customers.
  • Some criminals engage in ”dumpster diving” – going through your garbage cans or commercial dumpsters – to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements or other records that may bear your name, address or telephone number.
  • Criminals may simply steal your wallet or purse.
  • If you have received applications for “pre-approved” credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use.
  • Criminals may open up a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and Social Security number. When they use the credit card and don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • They may establish a cellular phone service in your name.
  • They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • Criminals may pilfer bank statements, credit card statements, pre-approved credit card applications, etc., from your mailbox.

Protecting Your Identity

  • Dispose of your personal information properly. Shred unwanted copies of credit card receipts, loan applications, etc. before you discard them.
  • Don’t carry all of your credit cards with you. Carry only the cards you plan on using.
  • Don’t carry your passport, birth certificate or your social security card with you. Don’t give out your social security number to anyone and don’t put it on your checks.
  • Don’t give out any personal information on the phone unless you are absolutely certain it is for a legitimate purpose.
  • At least once a year obtain a copy of your credit report and check it for errors.When using an ATM be aware of others who are nearby and could possibly obtain your PIN number.
  • Be aware of skimming devices that are attached to ATM’s and credit card readers at gas pumps, etc. If it looks like a device has been attached, alert the bank or store personnel.
  • Don’t be bullied. Some scammers will call you acting like someone from a company or bank you do business with. They will try to scare you by telling you about unauthorized withdrawals or purchases. If they ask you for personal information or for money…that is a red flag!

Already a Victim of Identity Theft?

If you have been the victim of identity theft, take the following measures. In dealing with authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names and phone numbers. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail – return receipt requested. Keep copies of all correspondence.

  • File a report with your local law enforcement agency providing as much documented evidence as possible. Obtain a copy of the report and the name and telephone number of your fraud investigator. Provide it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
  • Immediately contact the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies:
  • Experian(formerly TRW) P.O. Box 2104 Allen, TX 75013-2104 Fraud # = (800) 525-7195 Web site: Equifax P.O. Box 105873 Atlanta, GA 30348 Fraud # (800) 525-6285 Web site: Trans Union Corporation P.O. Box 34012 Fullerton, CA 92834 Fraud # = (800) 680-7289 Web site:
  • Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently – by phone and in writing. Obtain replacement cards with new account numbers for those that have been fraudulently used. Ask that old accounts be processed as “account closed at consumer’s request.” Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report such fraudulent activity immediately to credit grantors.
  • If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks you are unsure of. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers.
  • If your ATM card has been stolen or compromised, obtain a new card, account number and PIN. Do not use your old PIN. When creating a PIN, don’t use common numbers like the last four digits of your social security number or your birth date. Do not write your PIN down and place that in your wallet.
  • Social Security Number Misuse – Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your social security number (800-269-0271). As a last resort, you might want to change your Social Security number. The SSA will only change it if you fit their fraud victim criteria. Order a copy of your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy (800-772-1213).

For more information, contact the Federal Trade Commission: