Identity theft is quickly becoming one of Americaís fastest growing industries. Operating under a variety of methods, identity thieves are obtaining key pieces of our identities and fraudulently using that information for various illegal reasons. Your social security number, driverís license number or credit card will easily do the trick. Even that blank, pre-approved credit application that you tossed out this morning with the coffee grounds could allow someone to rob you of the one thing you may have thought was completely safe, your identity.
- Release your Social Security Number (SSN) only when absolutely necessary because it is the key to your credit and banking accounts. Do not have your SSN printed on your checks.
- Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement once a year to check for fraud by calling (800) 772-1213. If your SSN is fraudulently used, report it to the Social Security Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271.
- Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use and cancel all unused accounts. Keep a list/photocopy of all your credit card information and if fraudulent charges appear on one of your accounts call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service at (800) 388-2227 for help in clearing false claims from your credit report. Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information you donít want before tossing them in the trash.
- Order your credit report once a year from each of the following three major credit reporting bureaus to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent use of your accounts. Consider removing your name from the marketing lists to reduce the number of pre-approved credit applications you receive in the mail:
- Equifax Credit Reporting Bureau, P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374. To order a copy of your credit report, call (800) 685-1111 and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers and marketing lists call (800) 567-8688 or write to the above address.
- Experian Credit Reporting Bureau (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 1017, Allen TX 75013. To order a copy of your credit report call (888) 397-3742 and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers call (800) 353-0809 or write to the above address.
- Trans Union, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton CA 92634. To order a copy of your credit report call (800) 916-8800 and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers and marketing lists call (800) 680-7293.
- Reduce the amount of junk mail and unwanted telemarketing calls by writing to the following:
- Unwanted junk mail, contact the Direct Marketing Associationís (DMA) Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale NY 11735-9008 and request that your name along with your home address be removed from all mailing lists.
- Unwanted telemarketing (phone) solicitation, contact the DMAís Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale NY 11735-9014 and request that your name be removed from their direct telemarketing list. Also, be aware when dialing and 800, 888 or 900 number, your name, address and telephone number are probably captured by the company you dialed. Dialing *67 before any call, should, in most states, conceal your identifiers.
Note: These two DMA exemption requests must be filled separately and are only good for five years, at which time you will have to make another removal request. The DMA only accepts written requests, however, a general information number for DMA is (212) 768-7277.
Identity theft problems continue to grow, and so does the access to personal information compiled in private and government databases, including thousands of records available on the Internet with little or no privacy protection standards. Your personal privacy and identity is paramount. Practicing or following some of the above suggestions will reduce your risk from threats associated with identity fraud.
To obtain a better understanding or learn more about Identity Fraud you can click on the Internet to: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, www.privacyrights.org, which has several articles, books and other links to Identity Fraud including credit reporting laws such as 15 USC 1681, The Fair Credit Reporting Act.
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