Friday, May 5, 2023
DON’T BE A VICTIM: STOP IDENTITY THIEVES COLD
Identity thieves steal information, such as credit card, Social Security, and driver’s license numbers, then open accounts and run up charges in the consumer’s name. They fraudulently charge goods and services to a consumer’s existing accounts. In other cases, they may work or be arrested while using a victim’s name. The harm to a consumer’s credit and daily life can be devastating. Victims often have trouble obtaining credit due to damaged credit ratings.
If you think you have become a victim of an identity or personal information theft, here are three steps you can immediately take:
1. Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
2. For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the security department of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions. Close these accounts and put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name) on any new accounts you open.
3. File a police report in the jurisdiction where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report in case you are requested to provide proof of the crime later.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) assists victims of identity theft by providing them with information to help them resolve the financial and other problems that can result from identity theft. The FTC’ Identity Theft Hotline is 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
The following steps will help you reduce your risk of identity theft.
· Guard your Social Security number. It is the key to your credit report and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals.
· Monitor your credit report. It contains your Social Security number, present and prior employers, a listing of all account numbers, including those that have been closed, and your overall credit score. After applying for a loan, credit card, rental, or anything else that requires a credit report, request that your Social Security number on the application be truncated or completely obliterated and your original credit report be shredded before your eyes or returned to you once a decision has been made. A lender or rental manager needs to retain only your name and credit score to justify a decision.
· Shred all old bank and credit statements, as well as "junk mail" credit-card offers, before trashing them. Use a crosscut shredder. Crosscut shredders cost more than regular shredders but are superior.
· Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit-reporting bureaus. This reduces the number of pre-approved credit offers you receive.
· Add your name to the name-deletion lists of the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service used by banks and other marketers.
· Do not carry extra credit cards or other important identity documents except when needed.
· Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of your license and credit cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers if your wallet or purse is stolen.
· Do not mail bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and washed clean in chemicals. Take them to the post office.
· Do not print your Social Security number on your checks.
· Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once a year to check for fraud.
· Examine the charges on your credit-card statements before paying them.
· Cancel unused credit-card accounts.
· Never give your credit-card number or personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and trust that business.
· Subscribe to a credit-report monitoring service that will notify you whenever someone applies for credit in your name.
Although it's impossible to guarantee that your personal information will not get stolen, by following the above listed tips you can greatly reduce the risk.
LEGAL PLAN ASSISTANCE
Please feel free to use the LUT’s Supplemental Benefits Fund plan of benefits which provides the following, all applicable to “identity theft” issues:
General Consultation Benefit – provides coverage through the panel law firm for a member to consult with an attorney concerning any legal questions whatsoever.
Document Review Benefit - provides coverage through the panel law firm for professional review and interpretation of all legal documents, such as: guarantees, warranties, installment purchase agreements, loans, leases, insurance policies and court papers.
Consumer Protection Benefit - provides coverage through the panel law firm for a broad range of legal services which might be needed to institute and pursue action against fraudulent practices by merchants, department stores, home repair contractors, public utilities, automobile dealers, appliance dealers, etc.