Tips & Tricks

Guard Your Social Security Number
Guarding your Social Security Number is vital in terms of minimizing your risk of identity theft. With your Social Security Number, an identity thief can obtain various kinds of personal information about you. Many times they will use your Social Security Number to apply for credit in your name - and they have no intentions of paying the bill.

According to the FTC, the danger is real. An estimated 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, and that number is expected to rise with the passage of time. Identity thieves can obtain your SSN by searching through your garbage, stealing your mail, wallets or purses, from business or personnel records at work, telephone fraud calls such as posing as a sweepstakes representative or bank employee, etc.

Key point to remember is that your Social Security Number is confidential. Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet or purse, shred any and all documents that may show your SSN before throwing in the garbage, do not have your SSN printed on your checks and be very careful as to who you give your SSN to. If you are asked for your SSN by a business or utility company, verify that they have no other options first (ie. will they accept some other form of identification).

If you are concerned that someone may be using your SSN illegally in order to work, you may wish to check your Social Security Statement which lists earnings posted to your Social Security Record. If you do find an error on your Statement, contact Social Security immediately (1-800-772-1213).

Free Resources From Social Security

You can request your Social Security Statement online from Social Security here: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/isss/main.html

Or you may wish to download the Social Security Statement Request Form and mail it to the address listed on the form: Request Download Social Security Statement Request Form. http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-7004.pdf

If someone has misused your Social Security number or other personal information to create credit or other problems for you, Social Security cannot resolve these problems. You should contact the Federal Trade Commission for help.

You can contact the Federal Trade Commission by:

    * Internet— www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft
    * Telephone— 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
    * TTY— 1-866-653-4261
   
You also should monitor your credit report periodically. Free credit reports are available online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Free Booklet provided by Social Security:

Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number (.pdf file) http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.pdf

Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number (.html) http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html

Individuals have a variety of ways to report fraud to us. Individuals can contact us by:

Internet: https://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/public_fraud_reporting/form.htm

U.S. Mail:            
Social Security Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, Maryland 21235

FAX: 410-597-0118
Telephone: 1-800-269-0271 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
TTY: 1-866-501-2101 for the deaf or hard of hearing.

 

The Importance of Shredding Documents

Identity theft is quickly becoming one of the most organized and costly crimes of our time.

Reduce the chance of your personal ID theft by using a paper shredder to destroy all documents and files before discarding them.

It has been determined that criminals are indeed taking their victims trash to sort through and find any personal identification they can use to assume one’s identity and create new financial transactions at their victim’s expense.

Paper shredders are very affordable and lightweight and come in a wide variety of price ranges. Since paper/document shredding is relatively easy and inexpensive to do, we recommend it as one of the most important steps you can take to protecting yourself and your finances.

Paper shredders destroy your documents in thin paper strips. For a higher level of security, a cross-cut shredder is preferable as it shreds the documents in small chunks of paper making it much more difficult for a determined identity thief to piece together your shredded documents.

Actively using a paper shredder reduces the chances of your personal information being taken by an identity thief.

 

Opting Out From Unsolicited Marketing

How To Opt Out From Unsolicited MarketingIf you no longer wish to receive pre-approved credit card applications and other unsolicited commercial mail or receive telemarketing calls, you can opt-out by contacting the following:

Credit Bureaus
Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPTOUT)
to have yourself removed from the list to receive pre-approved credit offers. You will need to provide your home telephone number, your name and your Social Security Number. All three major credit bureaus will be notified of your wish to opt out.

Or you can also send a letter notifying the three major credit bureaus that you do not want your personal information shared for promotional purposes. This is necessary to considerably reduce unsolicited mail. To send a letter to each of the credit bureaus (include your complete name, full address, Social Security number and signature):

Options
Equifax, Inc.
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian
Consumer Opt-Out
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion LLC’s Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328

You may also want to opt out of direct marketing mail.
Send your request to:

Mail Preference Service
ATTN: DEPT: 13489067
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. BOX 282
Carmel NY 10512

Include your first and last name, address, city, state and zip code.

Removing yourself from telemarketing lists:

Telephone Preference Service
Attn: Dept 11813482
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512

Include your first and last name, address, city, state, zip code and telephone number (area code too).

The Direct Mail Marketing Association (DMA) also offers a telephone opt-out service. Write them with a list of all telephone numbers you want placed on "do not call" lists. Send your name, address, phone number with area code, and signature. They will retain your information for five years.
             
Telephone Preference Service
c/o Direct Mail Marketing Association
PO BOX 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014
(212) 768-7277

 

Stolen or Lost Wallet?

Strategies to protect your identity
A lost wallet or purse is more than just a headache for the owner. It can give identity thieves all the information they need to open accounts in your name, withdraw cash from your checking account, and more. If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, take the following steps to help protect your identity and prevent possible damage to your credit. As you take these steps, be sure to document everything (dates, names and phone numbers) for future reference.

Damage Control
The most important thing to remember if your wallet comes up missing is to take immediate action. Don't put it off until later, because an ID thief can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. Write down everything that was in your lost wallet, including credit cards, checks, drivers license, cell phone, etc. Look up the contact information for all your credit and banking institutions, as well as account numbers.

Contact The Credit Card Companies
Cancel your credit, debit, and ATM cards immediately to prevent someone from using your cards.

If you don't have the account numbers and contact information written down, you will need to go through your account statements to find this information. Once you cancel your cards, get new cards with new account numbers. It's also a good idea to follow up your phone calls with letters that include the date your cards were lost or stole, the date that you called the card company, and any relevant account numbers.

Contact Your Bank
You will need to report the loss to the fraud department at your bank. If your checkbook was in your lost wallet, there are two different ways to handle this situation.

The first way is to place a stop payment order on the checks that are missing. There is usually a fee for placing a stop payment (which can include a range of check numbers). If someone other than an authorized account user writes any of the lost or stolen checks, those checks would be returned to the merchant or individual that accepted the checks.

The second way to handle the situation is to close the account and open a new one. Just be sure that any companies that make automatic drafts or deposits are notified of the new account number.

Contact the Credit Bureaus
Call the fraud departments of the major credit reporting agencies. Ask each agency to put a fraud alert on your accounts. The credit bureaus will ask for your social security number and other pertinent information to update your files. The fraud alert will insure that any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. Here is the contact information for the three main credit bureaus:

TransUnion - 800-680-7289
Equifax - 800-525-6285
Experian - 888-397-3742

It is also important to review your credit reports regularly to verify that someone else isn't using your information. Thanks to the FACT Act, consumers can receive one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus. If you need instant notification of changes to your credit report, you might consider using a credit monitoring service.

Contact the Motor Vehicles Department
Report your missing driver’s license to your state’s department of motor vehicles and request a replacement as soon as possible. You will probably need some form of information to verify your identity, and may have to pay a small fee. Each state varies in what they require for identification, so be sure to call before you go.

Contact the Social Security Administration
Contact the Social Security Administration fraud hotline at 1-800-772-1213 to report the possible theft of your social security number. You can replace your card for free if it is stolen, but you will need to fill out Form SS-5 and show documents proving your identity and that you are a US citizen (or have immigration status). You will then need to take your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office. If an identity thief does end up using your social security number, the Social Security Administration may assign you a new number.

File a Police Report
Report your lost wallet to the police department immediately and keep a copy of the police statement. You will need to furnish as complete a listing of the contents as possible, including card numbers, checking account information including check numbers, keys, cell phone, etc. This helps proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is the first step toward an investigation if needed in the future.

 

Dealing With Other Lost Items

It's amazing how much stuff people carry in their wallets and purses, such as insurance cards, library cards, passports, memberships cards, etc. Identity theft can affect more than just your credit.  Contact all the above institutions to report the loss and request replacements (or possibly new accounts). Imagine being denied a medical procedure because your coverage limit has been reached (and you haven't even been to the doctor).

If your cell phone is also missing, inform your service provider immediately. Until you do, you will be responsible for any calls made from your cell phone. Work with local law enforcement to trace who is using them, or who reactivates them under their account. If your keys are missing, change the locks on your home and car.  After all, someone in possession of your lost wallet has all the information needed to find out where you live.

 

Preventative Steps

Once you recover from your loss and get all new cards, checks, and other important documents, here's an easy way to record all the relevant information. Place all these documents on a copy machine and make copies of both sides of each item.  Write down the phone numbers and addresses for each issuing company, and keep this copy in a safe place.

Prevention is the best insurance against identity theft. In the future, do not carry your extra credit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport in your wallet. This practice will help minimize the amount of information a thief can steal from a lost wallet.

 

Miscellaneous Tips

Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead write with a permanent marker "PHOTO ID REQUIRED."

When making payments to your credit card company using checks. Do not write your full account number on the Memo line. Instead, just write the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of your account number and anyone who might be handling your check will not have access to your full information.

Put your work or cell phone number on your checks instead of your home number. 

Never have your Social Security Number printed onto your checks. You can always write it in if absolutely necessary.

For important or sensitive information being mailed to you, use a Post Office Box.

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