Identity theft is a very costly and serious crime. People who have fallen victim to identity theft have spent their time and money pulling their financial lives back together. During this period, some victims may lose job opportunities, are refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for a crime they didn't commit.
Identity theft happens when your personal information, usually your Social Security number (SSN), is stolen and used to commit fraud or theft. The thief can use this information to rent apartments, buy cell phones, drain your bank account or obtain loans and credit cards. In worst-case scenarios, thieves can even hold a job or commit a crime using your identification.
If you feel you may be a victim of identity theft, please contact us at Country Bank, and visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and to obtain a recovery plan.
Identity thieves have different ways of obtaining your personal information. Identity thieves need something from the following list to begin:
- Your wallet or purse—containing ID, credit cards, debit cards, checks, statements or other account identifying information.
- Bank statements or receipts that may not have been properly disposed of. If you are finished with these items, use a shredder or other device before throwing them out to protect yourself.
- Mail—credit card statements, checks, tax information, pre-approved credit card offers, etc. If you feel you have had mail stolen from your mailbox (which is a federal crime), notify your local police department, your post office, as well as Country Bank.
- Personal information from your home or home computer.
- Files from offices where you are a customer, employee, patient or student.
These items and other personally identifying items should be kept in a secure confidential place minimizing the access by unknown people.
Minimizing Your Risk of Identity Theft
While identity theft cannot always be prevented entirely, you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously, and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft. Follow these steps today to prevent the unsafe and unauthorized use of your personal information.
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Your credit report contains personal information on where you work, live, credit accounts that have been opened in your name, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. Be sure it’s accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months.
You can request your free report online, by phone or by mail. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three reports at once or to order one report at a time. By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit more frequently throughout the year.
Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security Number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts with Country Bank, you may choose to use a password to identify yourself when requesting information in person or over the telephone.
Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home. Country Bank offers a variety of various sized, fireproof Safe Deposit Boxes in order to aid in the protection of your personal information.
Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that records are kept in a secure location. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well.
Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove incoming mail from your mailbox or use a post office box. If you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold or process a alternate address with Country Bank if you are leaving for a specific season like vacationing in Florida for the winter.
Don’t carry your Social Security Card with you; leave it in a secure place.
Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer’s hard drive, where they may be easily retrieved. Use a utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. It makes the files unrecoverable.
Free Annual Credit Report — http://AnnualCreditReport.com/
To order your report call: 1-877-322-8228
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
These are the three major credit bureaus:
Equifax — www.equifax.com
To order your report, call: 800-685-1111
To report fraud, call: 800-525-6285
TDD 800-255-0056 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian — www.experian.com
To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
To report fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TDD 800-972-0322 and write:
P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013
TransUnion — www.transunion.com
To order your report, call: 800-888-4213
To report fraud, call: 800-680-7289
TDD 877-553-7803; fax: 714-447-6034
Write: Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790