Identity Theft – A Practical Guide from the Federal Trade Commission
Do you know the red flags of identity theft? The Federal Trade Commission has published a very helpful guide to not only help you recognize identity theft, but also protect yourself and your business against it and to take action if it happens to you. You can download a copy of the brochure for free on their website. The following are some highlights from the brochure we’d like to share with our readers.
Red Flags of Identity Theft
- Mistakes on your bank, credit card or other account statements
- Mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
- Your regular bills and account statements don’t arrive on time
- Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
- Calls from debt collectors about debts that don’t belong to you
- A notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security number
- Mail, email or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child’s name
- Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
- Businesses turn down your checks
- You are turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job
How to Protect Your Information
- Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.
- Read your bank, credit card and account statements, as well as the medical explanation of benefits from your health plan. If a statement has errors or doesn’t come out on time, contact the business.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don’t respond to email, text and phone messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information this way. Delete the messages.
- Create passwords that mix letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use the same password for more than one account.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that protect your financial information with encryption. (An encrypted site has https at the beginning of the web address.)
- If you use a public wireless network, don’t send information to any website that isn’t fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall on your computer.
- Set your computer’s operating system, web browser and security system to update automatically.
If Your Identity Is Stolen
- Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.
- Equifax: 800‑525‑6285
- Experian: 888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion: 800‑680‑7289
- Order your credit reports. Each report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.
- Create an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company collecting debts caused by identity theft and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name.
To create an Identity Theft Report:
- File a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 877-438-4338; TTY: 866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
- Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police where the theft occurred and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.
The two documents comprise an Identity Theft Report.
Identity theft can rob you of time, money and peace of mind. Implementing a methodical system to prevent, recognize and remedy it is your best line of defense. We hope this article helps you create or refine your plan.
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