Identity Theft

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identity information (your name, Social Security number, or any other identifying information) to obtain a credit card, loan or any other type of credit or service in your name.

Why Should You Care About Identity Theft?

  • Your credit could be ruined
  • You could be arrested for a crime you didn't commit
  • You could be denied employment
  • You could be denied a place to live
  • Your wages could be garnished
  • You driver's license could be revoked

How Does An Identity Thief Get Your Personal Information?

  • Stealing your wallet or purse
  • Finding personal information in your home
  • Obtaining personal information from your work
  • Randomly using your Social Security number
  • Listening to your telephone conversations
  • Shoulder surfing
  • Dumpster diving
  • Stealing your mail
  • Fraudulently obtaining your credit report
  • Calling or sending mail or e-mail with bogus promises of prizes

How Does An Identity Theft Use Your Personal Information?

  • Obtain new credit cards in your name
  • Forge checks and debit cards and drain your accounts
  • Open new bank accounts in your name
  • Obtain loans or mortages in your name
  • Receive utilities in you rname
  • File bankruptcy in your name
  • Commit crimes in your name

How Can You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

  • Do not provide personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless:
    • You placed the call or sent the letter or e-mail, and
    • You know the company is reputable
  • If you receive a call claming you won a prize:
    • Do not provide or confirm any personal information
    • Do not send money
    • Do not provide any credit card information
  • Do not post personal information on the internet
  • Do not carry your Social Security card with you
  • Guard your wallet or purse:
    • Do not hang your purse over the back of a chair
    • Do not carry more credit cards then you need
    • Do not carry your passport or visa
    • Do not carry your passwords or your PINs
  • Keep your mail private:
    • Get a locking mailbox or a post office box for delivery of incoming mail
    • Do not leave mail lying around your home
    • Do not allow mail to pile up if you are away
    • Use a U.S. mailbox or the U.S. Post Office for outgoing mail
    • Have new checks delivered to your bank or to your post office box, not your home
  • Be careful with personal information at home and when traveling:
    • Use a telephone where your conversations cannot be overheard
    • Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder at ATMs or pay phones
    • Do not use a cell phone to provide personal information
  • Review your credit card and bank statements each month and report fraudulent activity immediately

How Can You Protect Your Credit Cards?

  • Shield your credit cards from view
  • Total your receipts before signing
  • Do not leave empty spaces on your receipts where additional amounts can be added
  • Never sign blank receipts
  • Keep copies of your receipts and compare them with your monthly statements

Action Steps For "Identity Theft Victims"

  • Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, to inform them of th eproblem. Ask for their fraud or security department.
  • Call the Police Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Office, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.
  • Call each of the three Credit Bureaus' fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a "Fraud Alert/Victim Impact" statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
  • Alet your banks to flag your accounts and to contact you to confirm any unusual activity.
  • Request a change of your PIN and a new password.
  • Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. You may also wish to contact a privacy or consumer advocacy group regarding illegal activity.
  • Contact PennDot to see if another license was issued in your name and/or report stolen license. If a new license has been issued, fill out a DMV's complaint form to begin a fraud investigation process.
  • Report fraudulent use of your checks to the check verification services that your local merchants use.
  • All requests by mail should be "Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested" whenever possible.

Identity Theft Resources

Government Agencies & Services

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
1-877-438-4338
www.ftc.gov

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
1-800-829-0433

U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service
1-800-275-8777
www.usps.gov

Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline
1-800-269-0271

Major Check Verification Companies

ChexSystems
1-800-428-9623

CrossCheck
1-800-552-1900

Equifax
1-800-437-5120

National Process Co.
1-800-526-5380

SCAN
1-800-262-7771

TeleCheck
1-800-710-9898

Credit Bureaus for Reporting Fraud

Equifax
1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250

Experian
1-888-397-3742
1-800-301-7196 Fax
P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
1-800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634

Consumer Groups

Identity Theft Prevention and Survival
www.identitytheft.org

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
www.privacyrights.org