Identity theft is America's fastest-growing crime. Last year alone, more than 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft, a crime that cost them roughly $50 billion.
With ID theft at an all time high, it is very important to monitor your credit report regularly. By monitoring your credit report, you can see and verify when an identity thief is opening new credit accounts in your name as this information is likely show up on your credit report. While monitoring your credit you may find some errors. This does not automatically indicate that someone has stolen your identity; it could simply indicate a clerical error. However, you will want to ensure all errors are corrected. Reduce the chance of your personal information being taken by using a paper shredder to destroy all documents and files before discarding them.
One method that criminals are practicing is taking their victims trash to sort through and find any personal identification they can use to assume one’s identity and create new financial transactions at their victim’s expense. Since paper and document shredding is relatively easy and inexpensive to do, we recommend it as one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your finances.
Guarding your Social Security Number (SSN) and account numbers are vital in terms of minimizing the risk of identity theft. With your SSN, a thief can obtain various kinds of personal information about you. Many times they will use your SSN to apply for credit in your name, with no intentions of paying the bill. Identity thieves will obtain your SSN by searching through your garbage, stealing your mail, stealing wallets or purses, stealing from business or personnel records at work, or telephone fraud calls such as posing as a sweepstakes representative or bank employee, etc. Never answer an email that poses as a legitimate banking institute requesting personal information; this is tactic is known as “phishing” and is geared to illicit information to be used for identity theft. Likewise never respond to emails promising you money in return for information. A good source of information on web and email scams can be located at: http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/email-scams.aspx
Signs to Look for if You Believe You are a Victim of Personal ID Theft:
- Monitor all the balances and transactions of your financial accounts. Unexplained withdrawals and/or charges could indicate an identity thief at work.
- Watch your mail. Ensure you receive all your bank and credit statements monthly and make note of what part of the month they normally arrive. Failure to receive these could indicate an address change was made on your behalf from an identity thief.
- Receiving credit cards that you did not apply for. If you didn’t apply for them, who did? Contact the credit card company immediately.
- Credit denial for loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc., for no apparent reason.
- Receiving notices or calls from creditors or debt collectors for goods and services you did not purchase nor receive.
Ways to avoid ID theft:
- Bank and pay bills online: Move your financial transactions online and turn off paper bills, statements and checks (including paychecks), replacing them with electronic versions. Avoid writing checks and placing the bill payment in your unsecured mailbox. Instead, pay bills online and arrange automatic deposits.
- Monitor accounts online: Frequently monitor your accounts online at bank and credit card websites. Individuals who do this uncover and resolve fraud faster than others who don’t.
- Monitor credit report: Review your credit information no less than once per year. You can do this for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Keep personal information private: Never provide sensitive financial or personal data such as passwords, PINs or account numbers over the phone unless you call directly to a verified and trusted location.
- Keep software updated: Install and regularly update firewall, browser, security, anti-spyware and anti-virus software on your personal computer and keep operating systems up to date.
- Secure paper documents: Reduce unnecessary access to personal information wherever possible. For example, don’t carry Social Security cards, checks or credit cards you’re not currently using, and don’t leave sensitive documents out in the open.
The University Police Department hopes that you will never become a victim of ID theft and that this information will help you in protecting your ID from thieves. For more information on ID Theft and programming available please contact University Police at 973-655-5222 or firstname.lastname@example.org