How to protect yourself from identity theft
Thieves who have gained access to your personal information - social security number, birth certificate, PIN or credit card number - can apply for a loan on your behalf, leaving you with a huge debt, and you won't even know about it until it will be too late.
The Department of Financial Security cited simple security rules in order to avoid becoming a victim of fraudsters.
Protect your personal information:
- Request a free annual credit report from all three major agencies each year and carefully check it for suspicious activity. You can order a report via the Internet at: annualcreditreport.comby going through a simple authentication process.
- Keep your social security card, birth certificate, and any other important identification documents in a safe place.
- Be careful when throwing documents away. For example, by discarding a bank or credit card report, you leave direct access to your personal information in the trash. Some thieves are ready to rummage through the trash to get hold of this data. Therefore, before throwing out the documents, tear them into small pieces so that no one can assemble the puzzle.
- Make sure that you have blocked personal files at work, and also be aware of who has access to your work data, as well as information about employees.
- Do not give out personal information by phone, unless you yourself have requested such a call or are absolutely sure of who you are talking to. Find out how the information provided by you will be used.
- Have a photocopy of your wallet contents if you lose it or you have it stolen. Copy both sides of your driver's license, credit card, bank card, and all other information. Keep copies in a safe place.
- Do not carry credit or debit cards that you do not use. This will help minimize potential damage if your wallet is lost or stolen. Remember that some medical and pharmacy cards contain a social security number on the front side.
- Do not keep passwords from cards in your wallet and never write them on the cards themselves. Avoid easy passwords. For example, your address, birthday, mother's maiden name or consecutive numbers. If you are asked to provide a social security number, find out if you can use another identifier.
- If you pay by credit card in restaurants or shops, watch who handles it.
- Never use an ATM that looks odd.
- If a credit, debit card or ATM is lost or stolen, report it immediately.
How to protect bank accounts and mail:
- Set passwords on your accounts. Regularly review statements and transactions. This will help to quickly identify any inconsistencies that may indicate fraud.
- All documents relating to bank accounts and cards, destroy, before throwing it in the trash.
- Never enter your driver’s license or social security numbers on your checks.
- When ordering new checks, take them directly from the bank, and do not expect to be sent by mail. If you have a mailbox, specify its address instead of the home one. Keep new and “canceled” checks in a safe place out of the reach of others.
- Pay attention to the frequency of billing. If you do not receive them on time, call the company to make sure no one has changed your billing address.
- Regularly check your credit reports at credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) at least 1 times a year. Make sure that the information they have about you is accurate, and change everything that is wrong. Verifying the facts will not affect your credit rating.
- Consumers can remove their names from the marketing lists of three credit reporting bureaus by phone: 1 (888) 5-OUT OPT.
Protect yourself and your computer on the Internet:
- Install an antivirus on your home computer to prevent hackers from attacking your hard drive, where financial information is often stored. This is especially important if you connect to the Internet through DSL, cable or high-speed modem. If you use broadband or DSL- connect, call your service provider to make sure your modem is equipped with a function Network Address Translation, with which it is not easy to find your computer on the network.
- Regularly update your antivirus software on your computer.
- Password protect your computer, mobile phone and other devices that have access to your data. Use a complex password from a combination of inconsistent letters and numbers, do not use obvious words and dates.
- If your computer has a built-in encryption option for individual files or hard drives, make sure the option is enabled. Encryption will modify your personal information, making it unreadable to unauthorized persons.
- Delete the data by formatting it before disposing of the computer. Do not rely on the Delete function to delete files that contain sensitive information.
- Make sure that you are not on a fake site that mimics the original in order to intercept the buyers' personal information.
- Do not enter your social security number on the Internet.
- Do not upload unknown files or open suspicious links.
- If you have to use a computer in a public place, make sure first that the owner denied the users administrative privileges, so they cannot install any programs that can be used to intercept your email or password.
If you are a victim of identity theft:
- Write a statement to the local police station, get a complaint number or a copy of the police report.
- If your rights are stolen, write a statement to the police and take a copy with you to your local DMV when you ask for a replacement. Ask to attach a copy of the report to your records. If you have proof that another person has taken possession of your documents, please submit the FI-17 Form (statement of misuse).
- Notify the bank of the loss or theft of checks or bank statements.
- Report suspicious activity or unauthorized payments to all your creditors at once - either by phone or by registered mail.
- Equifax: relief department: (800) 525-6285 or www.equifax.com
- Ask them to put a fraud alert on your records. A fraud alert usually lasts for 90 days, although it can be extended.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint about identity theft, under oath.
- Ask a question about fraud on the Social Security Administration hotline by phone: (800) 269-0271 or go to www.ssa.gov/oig . If you suspect that someone is using your social security number, you can check this by calling: (800) 772-1213.
- If your bank account has been hacked, close it completely and open a new one.
- Keep copies and detailed records of all your correspondence.
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